29 October 2019 02:34
Tiger Woods' back will never be the same. He recently had another surgery on his left knee. There's been neck pain and an oblique injury and a torn Achilles. One part of his body has never failed him, though. "I trust my hands, and today was no different," Woods said after collecting win No. 82 at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.
Related: Tiger Woods: Chasing 82 | Monday Finish: Healthy Tiger notches 82nd victory | Tiger's wins by the numbers The question now is how high can he go? His win in Japan was his third victory in his last 14 starts. He shot one of the lowest 72-hole scores of his career thanks to impressive iron play and putting. Only one player finished within five shots of him. Ninety wins seems in play, but it's also fair to wonder if he'll get No. 83. It all depends on his body. As long as his back can support the torque and twisting necessary to create the requisite clubhead speed, his hands will find a way to get the ball in the hole. He showed again at the ZOZO that there isn't a better pair in the game. Woods doesn't overpower the course like he did decades ago. That's not his M.O. anymore. Not after spinal fusion. Woods, 43, has to play a more calculating game, one that favors precision over power. It's fun to watch, harkening back to a different era while displaying the full array of his skills. The modern game is dominated by data. Technology can quantify every nanosecond of the golf swing, but Woods, who grew up with persimmon and balata, reminds us that there's still an artistry to this game. Woods uses a launch monitor, just like his peers, but he also doesn't have a swing coach. "I have to rely on my own feels and play around with what my body can and cannot do," he said in 2018. He has to lean on decades of experience instead of marathon range sessions. He can't outwork the competition, but he can outthink it. His length no longer separates him from the competition, but his iron game still does. He hit 76% of his greens last week, ranking third in the field. He was first in putts per green hit, which shows that he was hitting it close and rolling it well enough to convert. He's by far the best iron player of the ShotLink era, gaining +1.1 strokes per round with his approach play throughout his career. Jim Furyk is a distant second, averaging +0.7 strokes gained per round. Woods hits his approach shots high and low, and curves them left and right. In Japan, he used the winning formula that has worked dozens of times before. He removed the drama with his stellar approach play, making the final result feel like a foregone conclusion. He bogeyed his first three holes of the week, but there were few mistakes over the final 69 holes. He made just five bogeys the rest of the way and led by as many as five in the final round. He may have hit Monday's first iron shot fat and given Hideki Matsuyama hope with that bogey, but Woods' win wasn't at risk after that. Matsuyama had to attempt two heroic bunker shots on the final hole just to have a chance. Woods won by three. The third-place finishers, Sungjae Im and Rory McIlroy, finished six back. Woods will get a much-needed break before returning at his Hero World Challenge and, presumably, the Presidents Cup. "It was a very long week," Woods said after his win. He called it "stressful" and said winning wore him out. He once made winning look so easy that we forgot how hard it actually is. It doesn't get easier as the years pass by. We saw this year how fickle the human body can be, especially one that has endured the wear and tear that Woods' has. He looked poised to win multiple times after Augusta National, but didn't contend for the remainder of the season because of that bothersome knee and the energy expended to capture a 15th major. Then he arrived at the ZOZO for his first start in two months, and first since his knee operation, and looked like the player we saw in April. Even he was surprised by his quick success after surgery.