Tiger Woods thinks 2018 season has been his finest hour

RIDGEWOOD, NJ - AUGUST 22: Tiger Woods of the USA in action during the Pro Am event prior to the start of The Northern Trust at Ridgewood CC, on August 22, 2018 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
RIDGEWOOD, NJ - AUGUST 22: Tiger Woods of the USA in action during the Pro Am event prior to the start of The Northern Trust at Ridgewood CC, on August 22, 2018 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) /

Tiger Woods is still winless for the 2018 PGA Tour season, but that isn’t stopping him from thinking this has been perhaps the best year of his career.

Media day at the Northern Trust on Tuesday was a subdued affair compared to the last time Tiger Woods was seen at a golf tournament. Gone were the adoring crowds that followed Woods at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Instead Woods took the moment to quietly reflect on what this past year has meant to him.

By Woods’ standards, 2018 hasn’t been a great year. No wins, his spot on the Ryder Cup team not yet assured. But compared to where he was at the beginning of the season, he thinks it is one of his finest seasons of his career.

A year ago Woods wasn’t sure he would ever play golf again. At the Masters in 2017 he was telling people he was done with golf, that he would never be able to get back on tour. Not only did he work his way back, he has excelled.

He was runner-up at the Valspar Championship in March. At the Open Championship he took the lead in the final round before falling back to sixth.

Then at Bellerive Country Club he shot a final-round 64 to get within two shots of champion Brooks Koepka, the gallery cheering him on the entire time.

From wondering whether he would play again to contending in two major championships, it’s no wonder that Woods think 2018 ranks as one of his best seasons.

"“No doubt. To go through what I’ve gone through. I didn’t know I was going to play last year,” he said on Tuesday. “I was hoping just to be able to play golf with my kids and my buddies at home. I wasn’t thinking about the tour. And here I am, contending at major championships, and I’ve had a chance to win a couple of major championships.”"

Along the way Woods has relished the opportunity to compete against the best players on tour, a chance he thought was gone forever last year.

"“This has been, like I’ve said before, a blessing,” he said. “But man, it’s been so special to have this opportunity again. I’m certainly not taking it for granted, that’s for sure.”"

The Tiger Woods that dominated golf and seemed superhuman in the early 2000s is gone. In its place is a new Tiger, one who’s been exposed as vulnerable and with the same weaknesses as those who watch him on the weekends.

The back injuries that robbed him of so many years of his career, and the hard work he had to put in to make it back on tour, has made him more relatable to the fans.

It’s a factor even Woods himself recognizes and embraces.

"“This entire year has been so different. I’ve had excitement, I’ve had people into it over the years. But this has been so different,” he said. “I guess everyone knows I’ve struggled. I’ve had some back pain, I’ve gone through four surgeries, and I’ve tried to work my way back. And it’s been tough, and people understand that.”"

Woods is about to begin what promises to be the toughest test of his comeback. In 20th place in the FedEx Cup Standings, he’s going into a stretch that will see him play three tournaments in three straight weeks. He tees off at the Northern Trust this week.

That’s followed by the Dell Technologies Championship and BMW Championship the next two weeks. And if Woods is still in the top 30, he will play in the Tour Championship in Atlanta two weeks after that.

The Ryder Cup is also on his mind. Woods just missed earning an automatic spot on the American team that will go to Paris in September, finishing 11th in the standings. But he is virtually guaranteed to be one of captain Jim Furyk’s picks to fill out the team.

With such a heavy schedule coming up, Woods admits he has to change how he prepares for each tournament.

"“I’m committed to play in the first three right now. That should get me into Atlanta, and then on the back side is the Ryder Cup,” he said.“Yeah, that is a lot of golf. It’s about pacing myself. Making sure I don’t practice too much. Don’t overdo it. That’s one of the harder things this year, is trying to find the right balance. As the summer as gone on I’ve gotten better, and felt better. This is a pretty important stretch”"

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Woods begins his quest for the FedEx Cup at 7:54 a.m. on Thursday with Tommy Fleetwood and Marc Leishman. After all he’s been through, winning the cup will just cap off what has already been a magical season, one he’s not soon to forget.