Matt Every thought it was surreal Sunday that he was shaking Arnold Palmer’s hand at the post-tournament ceremony. He said, “It was really cool,” because Arnie was congratulating Tiger Woods just last year.
And the year before that.
And six other times at Bay Hill.
“I’m thinking, ‘I’m glad Tiger didn’t play,’ ” Every said.
Every says what everyone else won’t at times. He was right: The way Tiger had dominated the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his fellow golfers were probably tickled that he stayed home with a bad back.
I mean, does anybody really believe that Woods would have blown a seven-shot 36-hole lead like Adam Scott did?
You think he’d be bothered by Keegan Bradley and Every, the pair who had three Tour wins between them — none by Every?
The pretenders to the throne remind us of Tiger’s greatness as they fumble and stumble in his absence. Woods isn’t even whole, is off to the worst start of his career and nobody is rushing in to swipe the torch from him.
Scott came into Orlando ranked No. 2 in the world behind Woods. Unable to close the show, he crashed so hard that Tiger widened the ratings gap in most minds without swinging a club.
The guy is nearly in traction and he seemingly enhances his lead as No. 1.
Woods is like those Alabama football teams who improve their standing on bye weeks.
If the field can’t run him down now, when he can’t put his tee in the ground without aid of an at-home nurse, when can it?
Scott might as well be No. 22 today. The 33-year-old reigning Masters champ coughed up a chance to stride into Augusta in the rotating role as Woods’ worthwhile adversary. Who’s got next?
“We all grew up watching Tiger and you’re seeing his generation play now,” Bradley said. “And they’re not afraid to go win tournaments.”
Youngsters Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed have won four times combined in 2014, but they’re household names only in their households. Put an APB on Rory McIIroy, please. Where are the established elite players such as Bradley?
Bradley, 27, was expected to roar after winning the PGA title as a rookie but hasn’t moved the needle.
No wonder that the Tiger thread of discussion ran through Bay Hill from beginning to end, starting with his withdrawal to his bulging-disk bulletin to Every’s admission. It’s still that way whenever the PGA Tour circus comes to your town, Tiger or no Tiger.
The PGA left Orlando, with the golf world breathlessly awaiting the next news out of Camp Tiger.
And what do you know? The next medical update on Woods not only was heard on Monday but came from Tiger himself. Usually, his layers of handlers stiff-arm the prying media when he’s not available on the course. The Pentagon releases more information.
Tiger can’t say yet that he’s well enough to play in the Masters in pursuit of his 15th major title, but then we still have two more weeks of suspense before the tournament.
He owns four green jackets but hasn’t won one since 2005 — or a major in six years. Roll that around in your head for a while.
The Masters is also the only major tourney he’s never missed.
“For Augusta, it’s actually still a little too soon, to be honest with you,” Woods said at a news conference to announce a new sponsor for his tournament in Washington, D.C. “That’s kind of the frustrating thing about this.”’
Woods has been off for a couple weeks. He said he has been “working” on trying to get his back ready to continue chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record of having won 18 majors. My guess is Woods will be smelling the azaleas and strolling through Amen Corner next month.
With his body betraying him, critics say time isn’t on Tiger’s side at 38. Looking at his competition, he has to be feeling better already.