It’s not a major, but ‘Sunday Tiger’ ready to reemerge

Tiger Woods has three straight rounds in the 60s for the first time this year. If he is to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs, Woods will certainly need to make it four in a row.

His postscript has been written and his demise has been widespread. Whether that demise has been exaggerated is still to be determined. But Woods has given us a glimpse of what we recall of him, however vaguely. Heading into the final round at the Wyndham Championship, Woods sits in a tie for second place, two strokes behind leader Jason Gore. His 13-under par total is much more reminiscent of the dominant Tiger era than his more recent scratching and clawing just to reach the weekend.

Today could give us a better understanding of what to expect from Woods as his career continues. He needs to either win the event outright, or finish in sole possession of second place. That will likely require at worst a 4-under 66 and possibly much better. Sunday Tiger used to be a force to be reckoned with, able to hold any lead and instill fear in anyone he was charging behind. We haven’t seen Sunday Tiger much of late because he’s been at home watching the telecast.

But if Woods is able to come from behind and win the Wyndham Championship, it could at least indicate that he still has the drive and desire to compete. This event doesn’t include many of the big names who have been the major players, i.e. Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. He’s taking on many players who have never won an event in their PGA careers. Gore, the leader, hasn’t won since 2005. In his prime, Woods would still be a heavy favorite to overtake Gore and the rest of the second-tier field and waltz his way to yet another title.

This wouldn’t propel Tiger back into elite status by winning, but it would prove to those who thought his game was completely broken that he can still take apart a golf course. He’s been flashing smiles through the first three rounds and seems to be enjoying the reemergence of his game. I think he’ll be a little more serious today with a clear goal in his path. But it’s been refreshing to see that side of him again, rather than the frustrated and defiant version who has hacked his way through the 2015 majors.

Everyone, including the other players, seem to be energized by Tiger playing well. They may be secretly hoping for his regression today, but even Gore said after round three that he’s excited about the circumstances. This Wyndham Championship wouldn’t have the light being shone upon it if the result weren’t so important for Woods. We’ll see if that’s a detriment or a breakout moment for one of the other contenders.

I’m not sure what the bigger outcome would be today. If Woods comes through with the win, he’ll have his first really clutch performance in a long time. If he doesn’t catch Gore or take sole possession of second place, I’m sure the “he just doesn’t have it” hot takes will be plentiful. All we can do is wait and watch the story unfold.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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