Back in the Hunt

Tariq Engineer

Tiger Woods is back! What’s more, he announced his return in the most perfect way possible: with a win in last week’s Buick Invitational.Somehow you just knew it was going to be that way.

There was Phil Mickelson making comments about Tiger’s inferior equipment.

There was Ernie Els, doing his best Tiger impression by winning four of his five starts this year, and raising the question of a serious rival to Woods.

There was Woods himself coming off knee surgery and his longest layoff yet.

With such an atmosphere surrounding Woods’ return to the PGA Tour, you knew Woods would want to make a statement, and there isn’t a better statement than winning.

Woods started slowly with a 2-under-70. Then he upped the ante with a second round 66.

A third round 68 gave him sole possession of the lead at 12 under par.

In a wonderful twist of fate, Mickelson finished the third round two shots behind Woods and wound up in the final group with Woods.

Sunday, Woods showed once again why he is the number one golfer on the planet. He holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the second hole; Mickelson missed from 15 on the same line.

Woods hit fairways; Mickelson hit a police officer in the ankle, the ball bouncing down a hill and into swampy rough.

After Woods’ birdie on the 11th, everyone else was playing for second.

So what does this mean for the rest of the golfing world?

It means life is back to normal. Woods gave everyone a five-week head start, but he’s back and he’s shown that he means business.

What will be interesting to see is how well Els continues to play with Tiger back in the fold. Els put on his own little show last weekend, winning the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth by 10 strokes.

Els had a 29-under-259 total on the Lake Karrinyup course to break the European Tour’s 72-hole record for relation to par of 27-under.

Els began the year shattering the PGA Tour’s 72-hole scoring record with a 31-under total in an eight-stroke victory in the Mercedes Championships.

If he can maintain the same pace, we could find ourselves with a genuine rivalry at the top of the game of golf, and that can only be a good thing for everyone concerned.