Family first for Tiger now

Last Updated 28 September 2013, 16:02 IST

After signing his scorecard last Sunday, Tiger Woods lifted his daughter, Sam Alexis, who had run out to greet him after he putted out at No 18 for a three-under 67.

Woods’ even-par 280 finish left him tied for 22nd in the 30-man field at the Tour Championship, meaning he would not lift the FedEx Cup trophy or receive the $10 million bonus check. Both were snatched by Henrik Stenson, who overtook Woods, the leader, in the playoff standings with a three-stroke victory at East Lake Golf Club.
As far as consolation prizes go, a hug from his six-year-old daughter is one that Woods will happily accept.

“That’s what life’s all about,” he said. “There are more important things in life than hitting a little round ball and putting it in a gopher hole, you know.”

Woods, 37, could have fooled us that anything mattered other than winning in the years from 1999 to 2009, when he averaged nearly six tour titles a season and won nine of his 10 PGA Tour player of the year awards. He was like a world-class illusionist then, his focus so keen he could make the ball disappear into the hole.

Age, injuries, parenthood and a highly public divorce have left Woods with infinitely more on his mind in recent years, adding weight to the one prize he is the prohibitive favorite to take home. When Stenson’s last putt dropped on his closing 68, the season was all over but the voting for the tour’s Player of the Year.

Having finished with five victories, three more than the year’s five other multiple winners -- Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Stenson -- Woods was the automatic choice and on Friday was named the Player of the Year for a record 11th time.

Mickelson, who flirted with a round of 59 on his way to winning the Phoenix Open and came from behind to win the British Open less than a month after finishing second at the US Open, has never won Player of the Year honours.

“If I could have done well this week, I thought I had a really good chance,” said Mickelson, who closed with a 68 to finish tied for 12th at four-under 276.

Scott, the reigning Masters winner, was the only other multiple winner with a major title. For the fifth consecutive year, Woods failed to take one of the four titles that matter the most. He succeeded in the next-best events, winning the Players Championship, which the Tour bills as the fifth major, and two World Golf Championships events, at Doral and Akron.

“I wish I would have been a little more consistent in some of the events,” Woods said, “but overall, at the end of the day, you know, to add to the win total for the year, it’s always a good thing.”

Since 1990, when the PGA Tour began handing out the award, only two players other than Woods have finished with more titles than he collected this year: Nick Price, with six in 1994, and Vijay Singh, with nine in 2004. Both were voted the Tour’s Player of the Year.

Kuchar, who finished tied for 26th at three-over, said, without a moment’s hesitation, he would vote for Woods. Steve Stricker, who closed with a 65 to tie for second with Jordan Spieth, three strokes behind Stenson, was less sure.

Stricker was gallant in his honesty. He was the player, after all, whom Woods credited for jump-starting his season with a quick putting refresher that helped Woods win three of four starts during a three-month stretch beginning in March. The only tournament in that span that Woods failed to win was the Masters, where he tied for fourth.

Augusta National was the site of the first of two rules infractions Woods incurred on Tour that resulted in two-stroke penalties, darkening an otherwise bright season. At the BMW Championship outside Chicago, in the third round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Woods was penalised after a video showed that his ball moved when he was removing a twig before hitting out of the trees.

As he strives for consistency on the course, Woods appears to have found stability off it. Woods, who went public in March with his relationship with skiing champion Lindsey Vonn, has come across as more lighthearted.

Last Sunday, Vonn waited for Woods with his four-year-old son on her back and his daughter at her side. Woods’ smile when he saw them gave away where his focus is these days.

(Published 28 September 2013, 16:02 IST)

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