Somehow, I forgot to even check on Tiger Woods on Sunday afternoon.
Stupid me. That’s what happens when even the greatest golfer in the world somehow gets a little out of sight, out of mind.
Sure, I knew going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando that Woods was five shots off the lead, behind … did it really matter? Maybe he’d make it interesting. He did enough just to hump back into it after an average first round and above average second performance.
Now, it’s about 4 o’clock, just after North Carolina finished off Oklahoma to finish off the Final Four. KCBS started its post-game chatfest. The guy with the hairplugs starts ranting about … that’s the cue to head somewhere else.
Over at ESPN, Digger Phelps was digging into his analysis when the scroll across the bottom of the screen had a “program alert” … Woods was actually leading the PGA event with two holes to go.
From then, Channel 4 was the place to sit and watch with amazement.
Just as Woods hit his tee shot at 17 into the mouth of a trap and appeared there was no way out for him to survive.
He, of course, did.
At the par 4, 18th, Woods, who’s now fallen back into a tie with Sean O’Hair, belts it down the middle. His second shot, as caddie Steve Williams called a “bleeder” thanks to the open mike that allowed to hear it, plopped it over the water and the rocks into a slice of green that seemed as if you couldn’t put it in a better spot if you were to hand deliver it.
Then, from 15-feet, 11-inches, “just a little slider to the right,” as Johnny Miller described it, Woods sank the put as the sun was sinking into darkness. At just before 8 p.m. on the East Coast, Tiger Woods was back in prime time, greeted by Palmer just off to the side.
“Are you kidding me!” a voice kept repeating off camera, audible to the home viewers. “Are you kidding me?!”
The flashbulbs, which flashed much brighter, lit up the scene like a summer ago when Rafael Nadal outlasted Roger Federer in the Wimbledon men’s final. The irises of the NBC cameras were already open wide, to let as much sunlight in as possible, making it seem as if there was plenty of time to go if there needed to be a playoff.
Tiger didn’t need one. He shut out the lights with a a 67. O’Hair finished his par put for a 73.
And Woods had his 66th career victory. And a statement that, in a couple of weeks, he’ll be ready for the Masters.
“He is the greatest pressure putter that’s ever played the game,” Miller said of Woods.
“It’s just sheer magic,” said Dan Hicks, noting that Woods’ last comeback from five strokes on the final round was in 2000.
A day earlier, in full sunlight, Woods couldn’t even find his ball before hitting his third shot at the 18th hole. Sunday, not many in the gallery could see it well, even though it was on the green.