Tiger Woods kicked off his 2020 PGA Tour season with a bang by winning the ZOZO Championship, the first ever official PGA Tour event in Japan.
Woods now has 82 wins in his career, which ties him for the most of all time with Sam Snead, who has held this record since 1962.
Woods was coming off his fifth knee surgery, which he had in late August after the FedEx Cup playoffs. He has also undergone four back surgeries and he was unsure if he’d ever return to competitive golf many times throughout the years 2014-2017.
“Probably the low point was not knowing if I’d ever be able to live pain-free again,” he said after his win in the Tour Championship in 2018. “Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay down without feeling the pain that I was in? I just didn’t want to live that way. This is how the rest of my life is going to be?”
Woods definitely turned a corner in the last year, with a win in the Tour Championship last September and a win in the Masters last April.
However, it was unknown after yet another surgery how Woods’ game would look in his first action in nine weeks in the ZOZO Championship. In his opening round on Thursday, he proved his body was in good shape, as he shot a six under 64, rallying after bogeying his first three holes.
Woods stayed hot in rounds two and three, rattling off another 64 and then a 66 to take a three stroke lead into the final round, during which he was able to hold on by shooting a three under 67, clinching the three stroke victory over Japan’s own Hideki Matsuyama.
Woods’ iron game looked extremely sharp throughout the entire tournament, during which he had great success attacking pins and sinking a lot of birdie putts. He looked extremely confident off the tee for most of the tournament as well.
Woods’ weekend playing partner, Gary Woodland, described Woods’ play as “unbelievable” and said, “the ball striking exhibition I’ve seen the last two days is a joke.”
Woods even acknowledged after the tournament that his knee surgery allowed him to get down and read putts better than he has been able to do in a long time.
Every aspect of his game looked by far the best it’s looked since his 2019 Masters Victory, as he failed to seriously compete for another win in the six other tournaments he played in the remainder of the season, which included two missed cuts in the PGA Championship and The Open.
Woods is a clear competitor to win some more tournaments in the 2020 season, but it remains to be seen if he can sustain his good fortune with his health and have his first multi-win season since 2013.
He will continue his strategy that he had last season of playing fewer events to give his body rest, and plan his schedule around being in the best physical condition he can be in for the four major championships.
He cut his tournament load down to 12 last season from 18 the previous year in an attempt to stay fresh and healthy, but the nagging injuries still got in his way in the second half of the season, as he failed to even qualify to defend his 2018 win at the Tour Championship at East Lake, by failing to crack the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Woods still has his sights on the major championships record, as he sits at 15 major championships, the second most of all time behind Jack Nicklaus’ 18.
If he looks anything like he looked this week in Japan, he will definitely have a chance to contend to win another major in 2020. Woods is not easy to beat when his putter gets hot, and his overall game looked like it was in great shape this week.
Woods will return to action Dec. 4-7 at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas and afterwards will serve as the captain for the U.S. in the President’s Cup Dec. 12-15.
Woods will announce his three captain’s picks for this event next week, and he will surely be able to feel confident in picking himself to play after his performance in the ZOZO championship.
“I think the player definitely got the captain’s attention,” Woods said with a smile after his win.
Woods’ resurgence with his third win in 13 months is a great reminder that professional golf is perhaps in the most exciting place it’s ever been, with its biggest name chasing history along with an amazing group of young talent to watch like Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and many more.
The 2020 PGA Tour season has practically just begun, and it appears that fans are in store for a wild ride.
Janssen can be reached at [email protected]