By Andrew Both
CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) – Tiger Woods’ peers have learned over the years never to be surprised at anything he accomplishes and are braced for a further onslaught from the greatest player of their era, and perhaps any era.
After months of mediocrity following his 15th major title at the Masters in April, Woods emerged from metaphorical hibernation to match Sam Snead’s record 82 wins on the PGA Tour on Monday.
His three-stroke victory at the Zozo Championship, in his first start after knee surgery two months ago, seemingly came out of nowhere, proving once again that quality never goes out of style.
At 43, Woods does not hit the ball as far as many of his current rivals, but has found a way to win without overpowering a course in the manner of his prime.
“It never ceases to amaze really,” 2013 Masters champion and former world number one Adam Scott told Reuters, noting the roller coaster that Woods has been on this year.
“When he wins the Masters you’re like ‘he’s going to break Jack (Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors), that’s a guarantee’ and then by August you’re not sure if he’s ever going to play again and now after that break of two months he comes back and wins here off an extended break.”
“If he’s going to tee it up you can never count him out. He’s not consistently dominating like we once was, like we all got used to but he has this incredible talent and gift of getting the golf ball in the hole. His form is going to come and go but that gift is not going away.”
Other major champions were similarly impressed.
Rory McIlroy, who at age 30 has 17 PGA Tour victories, duly noted that he would have to win six times yearly for the next decade to approach 82 wins.
And this year’s British Open champion Shane Lowry sounded more like a fan than a man who won a major championship three months ago.
“He’s my golfing idol and sporting idol,” said Irishman Lowry. “He’s the best that’s ever lived. It doesn’t surprise me whatever he does.”
This year’s U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland played the final two rounds with Woods, and saw up close what the man is still capable of.
“The ball-striking exhibition I’ve seen the last two days is a joke, so I don’t see him stopping any time soon,” Woodland said. “Eighty-two’s pretty special. I think there’s a lot more in store.”
(Editing by Michael Perry)