The ball just hung there, suspended in time and purpose, much the way Tiger Woods’ life has seem to hang in the balance for much of the last several years.
As the shot heard around the world and industry legend Jack Nicklaus now describes as the “most unbelievable and gutsy” he’s ever seen” wondrously rolled closer and closer to reaching pay dirt, the weight of the world seemed to lift from Woods slumbering shoulders at the exact same moment his acts themselves were again raising the game to levels only he appears capable of.
With that one spellbinding chip-in on the par-3 16th, and ultimately what would prove his momentum-building triumph at the Memorial Tournament, Woods now easily rates as the odds on favorite heading into the glitz-filled, eagerly anticipated U.S. Open in just two short weeks.
As for last week itself, it was vintage Tiger in full effect, as he artfully worked his newly refined swing to the most mesmerizing, crisp and flush ball-striking week he’s orchestrated in months. In overcoming a four- shot deficit over the last closing shots, Woods stamped his imprint on the tourney by registering birdies on three of the last four holes and locked in a tie for the day’s low round.
“I went for it,” said Woods, who could have just as easily been referring to his revolutionary-styled career as much as he was mastering Muirfield Village’s ultra-slick greens. “Am I back?... today all I know is I pulled it off. I’ll let you guys figure all that out.”
And Woods must know all the world will be watching, just as they were over the weekend when CBS News gleefully reports ratings for Saturday’s broadcast were up by 67 percent compared to last year when he didn’t play, and up by an even more riveting 138 percent in the moments he worked his easy like Sunday morning final round wizardry.
Though it marked the second time Woods has known such victory and emotion this young PGA season, for tour officials moments like these have been far too long in coming. Just as the galleries were on Sunday, overall tour buzz is again ripe with testimonials attesting to his reverence.
All those scandal filled days, all those pundits who further impugned his name, much of that seemed like only distant memories as Woods stood side-by-side his childhood idol Nicklaus, basking in the adoringly applauds of tens of thousands forgivers.
Given such an epiphany, Tiger Woods seems to realize anew that immortality could yet await him. Pressure be damned, this is what he’s always craved. And with building on his 14 career major now so clearly in sight, it readily puts him in a space not many others can relate to.
Glenn Minnis is a veteran sports and culture writer who has contributed to the likes of ESPN, Vibe and the NFL Magazine. He has also been on staff at AOL Sports, the Chicago Tribune and was the founding sports editor for 360HipHop.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.