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In the swing: Tiger proves that he never forgot how to get the job done

Rory McIlroy’s win set up a cracking finale in the Race to Dubai, but golf columnist Neil Cullen is already looking forward to what a resurgent Tiger can do next season.

Image: Mark J. Terrill/AP/Press Association Images

WOW, WHAT A weekend.

When is the last time three players of the quality of Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods all won tournaments on the same weekend? I certainly can’t remember anything like it.

Let’s start with Rory McIlroy. An incredible way to win a tournament, holing out a bunker shot to take the tournament by two shots.

His reaction was also pretty inspired. That’s definitely the most animated we’ve seen him on the golf course. Even when he won the US Open, his reaction wasn’t as aggressive and passion-fuelled as what we saw at the end of the UBS Hong Kong Open. Maybe it was the fact that he wasn’t playing his best golf but still managed to grind out the win.

“To be able to win golf tournaments when you’re not playing your best is what the likes of Tiger [Woods] did week in, week out, whenever he was winning seven, eight, nine tournaments a year,” he told europeantour.com.

That’s something if you want to be a great player, you’re going to have to be able to do that. I feel as if I’m learning to do that, and this is a great win.

It’s quite clear that he is still growing in confidence and believing in himself more and more. Sure, he’s already an extremely confident guy, but those quotes would suggest he’s constantly learning and realises he still has more to learn. If that learning transfers into making him a better golfer, he really could be frighteningly good. And it’s not as if he’s far off that at the moment.

His win sets up an incredible showdown between himself and Luke Donald at the Dubai World Championship to win the Race to Dubai — and maybe even to become the world number one.

The only doubt hanging over the Northern Irishman is the fact that he has openly he admitted he is tired. “I’m mentally and physically fatigued and it showed in a couple of tired swings towards the end,” he said after his third round. He went on to admit he had been on a drip for three days recently. The big question for him now is whether he has enough left in the tank next week.

Easy, Tiger

Tiger Woods, to whom McIlroy referred after his win, and who has acted as a role-model for McIlroy for much of his life, had a pretty great weekend himself.

It may have taken him more than two years, but he’s finally got that “W” he yearns for so much. He may not have had it all his way over the final round — Zach Johnson did put it up to him — but his birdie-birdie finish contrasts greatly with his performance in the same tournament last year where he lost a four-shot lead to Graeme McDowell.

The putt he made on 17 was a must-make. Without that, the best he could have hoped for was a playoff. On 18, it may have only been a six-footer for the win, but it must have been one of the most pressurised six-footers he’s ever made. Imagine what was going through his mind…

His reaction said a lot. It was a wonderful sight to see Tiger roar again.

After the win, he told pgatour.com how he felt down the stretch: “I felt normal, felt very comfortable,” Woods said. “I’ve been here so many times that, you know, I just feel very comfortable being here in this position.

Was I nervous? Absolutely. Always nervous in that position. But it’s a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position. For some reason, it’s kind of a comfort to be in there with a chance to win.

The fact that he has won so many times before can only have contributed in a massive way to his win. His has so much experience to call upon, so many muscles in his brain that know what it feels like to win. That can only give a player a huge advantage and allow him to succeed as he did at the weekend.

It’s also the reason you feel he can now go on and become a multiple winner again. Once he plays well enough to put himself in contention, he has an advantage over the field. Not because he has an ‘aura’, not because other players are afraid of him, but because he has won more times than anyone else out there and knows better than any other player what it takes to get the job done.

The Race to Dubai finale is well set up for next weekend and will be a fantastic event, but next season can’t come quick enough.

Tiger jumps to 21st in rankings – as Rory McIlroy remains in second

Victory in Hong Kong keeps McIlroy’s Dubai dream alive

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