Not long ago, a runner-up finish at a major championship would have left Tiger Woods stewing, disappointed and rehashing moments that could have changed the outcome of the tournament. But on Sunday at Bellerive Country Club, Tiger Woods acknowledged a legion of fans from the overpassing player walkway and waited around to congratulate the eventual champion, Brooks Koepka.
Tiger’s 6-under par 64 was the lowest final round he’s ever shot in a major and one-fourth of the 266 he posted for the week, again the lowest he’s shot in a major championship. His seventh runner-up finish in a major was his most encouraging both because of where he’s been and where he seems to be going.
“Not for a while, no,” Tiger said when asked if not winning ever felt as good as he did after Sunday’s round. “I was pretty ticked at the British Open. I had the lead there. This one I never quite got to the lead. I was always trailing. It was a golf course in which I couldn’t sit still and make pars and be okay with it. I had to keep making birdies. I had to go get it and I tried.”
The PGA Championship marked yet another step in the right direction for Tiger who stumbled once he ascended the leaderboard at Carnoustie last month. Both the experience earned and the venue were contributing factors to his keeping the gas pedal down into the back nine where he struggled previously to carry over the momentum.
“I made two mistakes (at the Open), lost three shots in two holes and that’s the way it goes,” he said. “But this is a golf course you couldn’t sit still; can’t make pars and expect to win this tournament. I had to make birdies. Everyone’s going to shoot low numbers today and they pretty much did. There were a bunch of rounds under par. You don’t normally see that in major championships, but this is playing a little bit different.”
Woods is a virtual lock to play on next month’s Ryder Cup team and he has committed to play in each of the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoff events for which he is qualified. Despite the typical wear and tear that comes from playing a lot of golf at 42 years of age, his health has held up as well as could be hoped.
Whether Tiger picks off the first victory of his latest comeback before the end of 2018 remains to be seen, but another major championship weekend spent in contention eliminates questions about whether or not he has the game to win. Now, it’s just a matter of getting across the finish line. His experience at Bellerive can only help him in that regard.