- Associated Press - Monday, November 21, 2011

MELBOURNE, Australia — Tiger Woods hasn’t looked this good on the golf course in back-to-back weeks since he left Australia two years ago with his 82nd title and the indisputable No. 1 ranking.

OK, it’s a small sample.

The Australian Open and the Presidents Cup marked only the sixth time since the end of 2009 that Woods has even competed in consecutive weeks.

He finished third in Sydney, two shots out of the lead. He played just as well, if not better, at Royal Melbourne, even if his record will show him contributing only two points. Still to be determined is whether the last two weeks represent another tease or substantial progress that Woods really is on his way back. Nine rounds of solid play — mostly in windy conditions — would suggest the latter.

Next up for Woods is his season finale in the Chevron World Challenge next week in California.

It was a small coincidence that the decisive point in another American win in the Presidents Cup came down to Woods. U.S. captain Fred Couples put him in the 11th spot for the 12 singles matches Sunday. Woods closed out Aaron Baddeley on the 15th hole with his sixth birdie, the most of any player on another tough day at Royal Melbourne.

The comments that followed were not so much of a coincidence.

Nothing irritates Woods more than people who either doubt or criticize him, and that list included International captain Greg Norman. Along with saying he thought Woods‘ dominance in the majors was over, the Shark said he would not have picked Woods for the Presidents Cup, instead choosing PGA champion Keegan Bradley.

Couples not only used a captain’s pick on Woods, he announced it a month before his team was even decided.

“I’m thankful that he picked me,” Woods said. “Greg is probably not happy about it after I closed out the cup today.”

The Presidents Cup was a big step for Woods, and it ended with a small dig at Norman.

And there could be more to come.

Woods has spent a career wanting to prove the skeptics wrong. He was questioned for overhauling his swing under Butch Harmon after his watershed win at the 1997 Masters, but when he was finished, Woods reached incomparable levels. He won 28 times in a three-year span, and had a stretch of winning seven out of 11 majors.

Then came another change under Hank Haney, where everything was inspected except the number of trophies. Woods won a fourth green jacket at the Masters in 2005, was runner-up in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, then captured another British Open that showed he was back on top of his game, and his sport.

Woods couldn’t resist a shot at his skeptics.

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