It feels both like it’s been a decade and only a few days since Tiger Woods got the 80th victory of his career at the 2018 Tour Championship. The reality, though, is that it’s been exactly 12 months since Woods shot a final-round 71 to defeat Billy Horschel by two strokes and Dustin Johnson by four.
Woods was paired with 2019 Tour Championship victor Rory McIlroy during that final round, and he clipped him by three on the day and six on the week.
“I must say, I didn’t enjoy that walk last year like everyone else did,” McIlroy said recently. “I played terribly. I got myself into the final group and never took the fight to Tiger.”
He did play poorly during that finale, but Woods also played well. And the thing that felt like it was never actually going to happen finally actually happened: Woods won for the first time since 2013 following his fourth back surgery. He would go on to win this year’s Masters, and somehow defeating that 30-golfer field at the Tour Championship felt like just as big of a deal.
Tiger had both a great follow-up year — because, you know, he won the Masters — and also a disappointing one because he didn’t make it back to the Tour Championship at East Lake. Regardless of what happens the rest of his career, though, that final Sunday of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season was as good a moment as you’re ever going to see at a non-major championship.
It’s going to be difficult to properly contextualize to future generations of golf fans just how astonishing Tiger’s win was. He was toast. He said he was toast. And then he wasn’t. In some ways, winning that Tour Championship — after all he’d gone through — was more inexplicable than him winning the 2019 Masters. The only real cushion we had was that he’d contended at both the Open Championship and PGA Championship earlier that summer.
But even then, winning is so different. And he did it. He did it. One year ago today. I remain just as incredulous typing those words on this Sept. 23 as I did that one. And I suspect I will next year and the year after that one, too.