Woods making progress despite loss

There was a considerable amount of gloating about Tiger Woods squandering a lead down the stretch in his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, the “See, I told you he can’t win anymore” crowd gleefully reminding, “See, I told you he can’t win anymore.”

In the old days, before the accident and the scandal, we were advised, Tiger never would have been beaten when he was ahead with six holes to play.

Probably accurate. But more significant is the fact Woods was ahead with six holes to play.
For the first time in 13 months.

That he was overtaken by the hottest player of the year, Graeme McDowell, who won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, who holed the clinching putt in the Ryder Cup, was more McDowell’s doing than Tiger’s.

Woods had a bad 13th hole, a double bogey. But McDowell one-putted for a bogey on 17 after chipping over a bush to the green, matched Tiger’s birdie with a 20-foot putt at 18 and then holed virtually the same putt on the first extra hole to win.

The anti-Tiger crowd insists he has lost his mojo, and that the rest of the golfers no longer are intimidated. Also probably accurate.

Yet in the 2005 Masters, Tiger gave away the lead to Chris DiMarco, who wasn’t at all intimidated, but then defeated DiMarco on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

On Friday at the Chevron, held at Sherwood Country Club in the Santa Monica Mountains some
30 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, Tiger swapped a shirt with the usual Nike swoosh logo for one with a Stanford “S,” logo.

“I was just trying to show my support for our team,” said Woods, enrolled at Stanford from 1994 to 1996, “but also just very proud of what they have done so far. We haven’t been in this position for a long time.” Nor had Woods. Nor, because of Tiger’s decline, had golf.

He didn’t win, but in a sense, becoming a contender, he did win. And golf won. The Chevron was the lead story in Monday’s New York Times sports page. Over the New York Giants. Over the New York Jets. Tiger did that.
On the course, Tiger never again may be the force he had been — then again, he very well may — but he has regained the confidence which ebbed when his world came apart.

Woods will be 35 on Dec. 30. He should perform well for another five years at least. Whether that means winning more majors is impossible to predict. Maybe he won’t win anywhere, but the guess is he will. And more than once.
Woods said he had a “great week” at the Chevron — understandable. “I’m proud of today,” he offered after Sunday’s final round, “even though I lost. I lost my swing and then pieced it back together.”

That, in effect, is what he has done with his life and his game, asking forgiveness for the flaws in personal actions and asking new teacher Sean Foley to correct the flaws in his golf.

“It’s a process,” said Woods. “Incremental steps. I’m just really excited about this offseason.”

What Tiger didn’t do last weekend has some pleased. What he did has Tiger pleased.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

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