There was also a vintage Tiger shot from the deep fairway bunker at the 17th hole a day earlier that amazed playing partner Scott Stallings. "He hit a wedge over a 20-story building out of a fairway bunker to 10 feet," said Stallings. "I thought he was going to lay up. I almost pulled out my phone and tweeted it."
Woods's reaction to the shot: "Tasty."
Tiger felt his game was falling into place when he visited Olympic for an Open preview on the Tuesday of the Memorial. By the time he teed it up on Thursday at Muirfield Village he was sure his ball striking was where he wanted it. "I had it all week," Woods acknowledged after his win. "From the word go, yeah."
One other thing. Woods didn't attack the par-5 holes on the weekend, because he was more comfortable shaping a cut, a left-to-right shot, with his driver, and the wind was blowing in that direction. He used driver sparingly on the weekend, but on Thursday and Friday he wielded it effectively. Even with a cut, which takes a little distance off the shot, he bashed a couple of drives well over 300 yards. Granted, with its wide fairways, Muirfield Village isn't a thorough test of driving ability—not like any U.S. Open and its bowling-lane targets. Still, the possibility that Tiger's long-errant driver might once again become a useful weapon should be a chilling thought for his competitors.
Woods won the Memorial because of his shotmaking and his ball striking. He led the field in greens hit in regulation but ranked only 41st in the Tour's strokes-gained putting statistic. That leads back to the original point about Tiger's being back. Still to be determined is the state of his putting. He holed the must-makes, but he missed his share too—he was 0 for 7 from seven to 15 feet on Saturday. Then again, he was battling a 102° fever that he said finally broke late that night.
Plain and simple, Tiger will go as far as his putting will take him. Tom Watson, a Nicklaus rival who got teary-eyed during a pretournament ceremony when an equally choked-up Nicklaus celebrated him as the Memorial's annual honoree, said, "The dirty little secret is that I was probably about the best putter out there. I broke a lot of people's hearts with that putter. You can't putt average, you have to putt well to win. You just do."
Thus it has always been. Woods is 36 and has a lot of miles on his stroke. He is almost to that age when most golfers stop pouring in those clutch eight-footers that had always seemed so easy. How well can he still putt over 72 holes on the game's biggest stages? We'll see. He has a miss-left stroke on the occasional five-footer that he needs to address. With his swing honed, he now has time to do just that.
One last thing in Tiger's favor is that he seems to be in a good place. He was sick early in the tournament with a combination of allergies and a flu bug. "Thank God I had a big towel," he said only half-jokingly after the first round. When Tiger hacked repeatedly on Saturday, Stallings facetiously asked, "Are you going to make it? Should I get you a cart?"
Postfever, Tiger looked refreshed and energetic. Maybe even happy. One reporter saw Woods duck into the Marriott's concierge lounge on Sunday morning to fix two coffees—one with cream, one without—and then return to his room.
Asked in the postvictory press conference if he thinks he's back after two wins in 10 weeks, Woods said matter-of-factly, "I won." There were a few laughs, but to Tiger winning is the answer to most questions, the only answer that really matters. The U.S. Open is a week away, and Woods suddenly looks ready. History is waiting.