Tiger Woods makes his first appearance in the $6.1 million Greenbrier Classic this week at the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. Woods, ranked fourth in the world, has won three of his past seven starts, most recently this past Sunday at the AT&T National.
Tiger's 74th PGA Tour victory vaulted him past Jack Nicklaus into second place in all-time wins and was his 100th professional triumph, according to the tour. Not only did Woods take over the points lead in the FedExCup standings for the first time since 2009 while becoming the first three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, he also grabbed the No. 1 spot on the money list with $4,220,398. This, despite playing in only 11 events.
"I'd say he's playing the best golf in the world right now," said AT&T runner-up Bo Van Pelt, who was paired with Woods in the final two rounds.
Tiger, who serves as host of the AT&T National, gave his $1.17 million first-place check to the Tiger Woods Foundation.
"I've always donated all of my tournament winnings to the foundation, so they're very happy," Woods said.
Tiger now tops the PGA Tour in scoring with an average of 69.04. Competing in sizzling 100-degree temperatures at firm and fast Congressional Country Club, where the cut came at 6-over, he finished at 6-under. The steady Woods recorded only six bogeys -- with just one in the last 36 holes -- and led the field in pars.
"I could see the process coming together," he said. "Sean [Foley] and I were working, and we can see what's coming, and we can see the consistency, and it's just a matter of time. If you look at my ball-striking so far this year, it's gotten more and more consistent."
Woods has now won 11 PGA Tour tournaments at least three times in his pro career. Only Sam Snead (82) has more victories.
Television viewers took notice. Sunday's telecast on CBS drew a 4.6/10 rating/share, up 188 percent from last year's final round.
"I think the impressive part as another golfer and just an athlete is that he's had a focus from a very young age to be the best player there ever was, and he's spent his whole life doing something about it," Van Pelt said. "A lot of people say they want to do something, but they don't back it up. I feel like he's backed it up his whole life from the time he was a young child, and that's impressive."
Woods and Van Pelt have competed against each other since junior golf and share mutual respect. What stood out about Woods' play?
"I would say he seemed like he kept his rhythm for two days, and you know I think whenever you're working on something in your golf swing, that's the hardest things to mesh is mesh the physical with the rhythm," Van Pelt said. "He's always had beautiful rhythm, but it's hard for any player when you're trying to change something to stay in that rhythm. It just goes to show you he's getting way more comfortable what he's doing swing-wise because his rhythm stayed the same for 36 holes under the heat. I think he's got to be pleased with that."
Woods also credited former Stanford teammate Notah Begay III for helping him with his putting. Begay noticed he was bringing the putter head too far inside on his back stroke, causing him to block putts to the right, and told him to exaggerate opening the toe of the blade on the back stroke, forcing it outside, which is how he putted in college. The tip produced immediate results.
While Woods sunk only one long putt at Congressional, a 48-foot eagle on the 16th hole Friday, he never missed a putt inside 10 feet and didn't three-putt. He also tightened up his bunker play thanks to a tip from Foley, who noticed his swing was too steep at the top.
Woods will look to continue his good play at Old White, a 7,229-yard, par-70 layout originally designed by Charles Blair McDonald in 1914 and remodeled by PGA Tour Design in 2010-11. One of three courses on the property, it features fast, challenging greens, 72 bunkers and 10 water hazards. In 1979, it hosted the Ryder Cup.
"It's exciting to go to new places," said Woods, who is making his first visit to West Virginia. "I know about the history of it from Sam."
Snead called Greenbrier Resort home for more than 60 years. When Tiger was 5, he played in an outing with Snead in Southern California and the two struck up a long-standing friendship.
"We had countless dinners and conversations," Woods said. "The needling was non-stop."
Tiger has nothing but admiration for Snead, who won events in parts of five different decades.
"Sam's record is absolutely phenomenal," Woods said. "He had a classic swing and was blessed with incredible flexibility."
Last year, rookie Scott Stallings, Bob Estes and Bill Haas finished regulation play at 10-under par. Stallings won the tournament with a birdie on the first extra hole.
Other notable players in the field this week include Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker and recent U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.
Tiger is scheduled to begin first-round play Thursday on the 10th tee at 8:10 a.m. ET with Simpson and Stricker.