Carmel Magazine

Spring-Summer 2019

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a decade earlier. Now Pebble can serve as a marker of how far he has come since then. The Masters was Woods' first major championship victory in 11 years. That gave him 15 for his career, restarting the ascent up Mt. Nicklaus. The U.S. Open's two- time defending champ, Brooks Koepka, was among the players Woods van- quished at Augusta. Afterward, Koepka said, "Tiger is back. I think 18 is a whole lot closer than people think." Woods will have to take a different route to get there. In 2000, he was both the game's best driver of the golf ball and the purest putter, a potent combination. His stroke is now betray- ing the ravages of time; his putting was only so- so throughout the Masters, including during the final round, when he didn't make anything longer than eight feet. And he is now far from the most overpow- ering player off the tee. Woods ushered in a new era in golf, maximizing his fitness through punishing workouts. These days, every other player pushes themselves hard in the gym, and dozens of them hit it longer than Woods. But unlike these brutes, he can shape his ball to fit the twistiest fairways. Pebble Beach is shor t by the standards of the modern game; avoiding the rough will be more impor tant than driving the ball to the moon. At his champion's press conference at the Masters, Woods said, "I felt like the strongest par t of my game all week was driving the golf ball. I've been working on trying to shape the golf ball both ways coming into this event, and was able to do that." This proficiency allows Woods to maximize his greatest strength, his iron play. He has reclaimed his title as the game's best iron player, and precise approaches will be crucial at Pebble Beach, which has some of the smallest greens in championship golf. Woods has another x-factor in his game: the motivation to play for his 10-year-old son Charlie and his daughter Sam, 11. Much has been made of the role of Earl Woods, a former Green Beret, in his son's life. It was only after Earl's death, in 2006, that Tiger (nicknamed for Vietnamese soldier who saved Earl's life in combat) lost his way. Last year, after a wrenching near-miss at the British Open, Woods spoke movingly about how much he had wanted to win so he could show his chil- dren who he used to be. 140 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 9 Woods' goal since he was a boy was to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championship victories; having just won his first one since 2008, Tiger's total is at 15…and counting. So Woods has turned back the clock, arriving at Pebble Beach when he is once again the biggest story in golf and perhaps the most celebrated athlete in the world. Photo: Action Plus Sports Images /Alamy Stock Photo

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