Step back, Jack? Not quite. But Tiger Woods is Finally Ready to Win Again

I’ve gone on record saying Tiger Woods will not surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major golf championships. He’s got 14, as almost every golf fan knows. But he’ll be 36 years old at the end of this month, and to topple Jack he’ll have to win five more majors at an age when time is more foe than friendly.

Indeed throughout golf history only 17 other men have won as many as five majors in their entire careers–and Phil Michelson, considered maybe the second-best golfer of this era, isn’t among them. Lefty has four.

I’m not ready to back down from my Tiger-won’t-jack-Jack prediction just yet, but I will say this: Tiger is ready to win again.

In fact, I think he’ll win at least one major in 2012. And if it’s The Masters in April (the most tiger-friendly major), he just may win two next year.

And if he does that, well, check back with me then.

Tiger won a tournament on Sunday, his first victory (in damn near anything, really) for the first time in 749 days and about 356,567 moments that probably sucked.

He won the Chevron World Challenge, his own personal outing, of sorts. With only 17 participants it wasn’t very worldly, which some have used to diminish the triumph.

But to me it wasn’t simply that he won. Indeed had he won handily it would have been a nice story and little more.

It was how he won–with klutch birdie puts on Nos. 17 and 18 to overcome a one-shot deficit to another Masters champion, Zach Johnson.

Suddenly, we were all watching again–switching even from compelling NFl games (I was working the remote on Green Bay-Giants) to watch Tiger stare, pace, crouch, focus, stare, pace, address the ball and …

Even as Johnson watched Tiger’s final birdie roll towards and into the cup (launching a Tiger roar the likes of which I don’t think we’ve ever seen/heard), the expression on his face simply said, Yeah, he’s back.

For the first time in what seems like a lifetime, an opponent seemed to know an important putt by Tiger Woods was going dead into the cup.

Woods won’t likely become dominant again. He’ll have more bad days, bad tournaments.

Gone are the days when merely stepping onto the first tee was worth three to five strokes against a field intimidated by his presence.

That Tiger is done.

But this Tiger is healthy. And seemingly confident again.

This Tiger can win. And will.

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