Woods told reporters that he wasn't sure he was ever going to be able to play again. But instead of just returning to the course, he claimed victory.
He was bigger than an NFL Sunday, which seems perfectly apropos. In his prime, Tiger Woods was bigger than everything and everyone. Why not win a head-to-head with America's modern pastime in his return to the winner's circle as an aging, balding man?
Whether you were in Lincoln Financial Field to watch the return of Carson Wentz, or in any other stadium where outsized athletes in helmets and pads took turns pancaking each other, you had to keep one eye on the nearest TV, the other on your phone. Why? Woods was doing far more in Atlanta than finishing off his 80th PGA Tour victory, that's why.
He was becoming Eldrick Tont Woods again, Tiger to you and me and the rest of creation. He was becoming the best of the best one more time, protecting a 54-hole lead of at least 3 shots for the 24th time in 24 tries. He was returning as Mozart and Michelangelo in a red shirt and spikes, all the way back from the golfing dead.
The scene on the 72nd hole was stunning, as a huge parade of fans at East Lake marched up the fairway behind Woods, nearly inspiring him to cry. The crowd around the green chanted "U-S-A ... U-S-A" for a golfer who never thought he had a prayer of being part of this year's Ryder Cup team. Then Woods hit his bunker shot onto the green that sealed the deal. He tapped in his second putt, raised his arms to the sky, and hugged Rory McIlroy and then his own caddie, Joe LaCava, as the fans started chanting his name.