This past weekend at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, the competitive fire was back for Tiger Woods. In one of the most highly anticipated match play matchups in recent years, Woods dueled it out against his fellow rival Rory McIlroy. Referred to by many as "Ali vs. Frazier," (in reference to one of the greatest heavyweight bouts between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier) this match yielded a great tune-up in preparation for the Masters in two weeks.
McIlroy, who came into the weekend as the outright favorite to win the Masters has been playing lights out in recent weeks. His relentless win at The Players Championship a few weeks ago and his unwavering ability to stand up in the face of other opponents on the last stretch of holes has made him feared by many. However, for the calm, cool and collected Mr. Woods, this was not the case.
Tiger struck first, winning the second hole of the match to put himself up one against Rory. As they continued to battle down the first nine holes, it seemed that Woods held the momentum. Every shot that McIlroy hit was followed by an even more impressive shot by Woods. Every drive off the tee was mashed even further by Tiger. He just seemed ready to be back competing with the best in the world.
Boy did he compete. Tiger got as high as three up on McIlroy before his conservative play along the last few holes started to factor in with his decision making. Rory fought back but with no avail, as Woods won the match 2 & 1 on the 17th hole with a monstrous 15-foot putt.
The takeaways from this match could not be more clear. Woods is back. I know I have written and said this countless times over. Tiger is back this time, or, Tiger will back that time. But, with not a single worry or fear in mind, I can wholeheartedly exclaim that he is officially back and will win soon. Crazy how this all shapes up right before the Masters. It's as if he has been planning for this, watching himself come into form just in time.
He has and it will pay off. Woods has had The Masters circled on his calendar since last April when he finished 18 strokes off of winner Patrick Reed. For him, every time he walks along Amens Corner or crosses the bridge on the 13th hole, it is a homecoming reunion for him. This year will be no different. I will say it loud and clear: Be ready, Tiger Woods is back.