Tiger Woods may be embarking on second phase of career

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Tiger Woods might be the only one who doesn’t consider his win at Bay Hill the start of a comeback.

As much joy as he felt on the 18th green after finishing off a five-shot victory, his first on the PGA Tour in 2½ years, he was all business when he fielded his first question about what kind of leap forward this might be.

“This is my second win,” Woods said.

Technically, he was right.

Woods counts the Chevron World Challenge nearly four months ago, when he finished birdie-birdie for a one-shot win over Zach Johnson. He earned world ranking points that day. And while it was only an 18-man field, every player had to be among the top 50 in the world to qualify.

But he contradicted himself moments later when he talked about his progression. The 36-hole lead in the Australian Open. A share of the 54-hole lead in Abu Dhabi. Playing in the second-to-last group at Pebble Beach, where he was one stroke out of the lead on the front nine. The closing 62 at the Honda Classic that made Rory McIlroy sweat in the final hour.

He mentioned just about every tournament except the event he won. Even after he won in December, Woods cited lyrics by LL Cool J: “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”

As for that win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational?

“It was just a matter of staying the course and staying patient … and here we are,” Woods said Sunday, another indication that beating a full field on the strongest tour in golf meant that he arrived somewhere.

The next question is where he goes from here.

There is no denying Woods is starting the second phase of his career. He had every right to bristle, as he did 11 years ago at Bay Hill, at the mere mention of a slump for going three months without a PGA Tour win.

His record will show winning at a rate never before seen in golf and then two years in the middle with no trophies at all. That’s what makes Bay Hill the start of a comeback, or at least the start of his second career.

“Every golfer has two careers,” Johnny Miller said at the end of NBC’s telecast. “You have the first burst, and then sometimes you have a lull, and then you have a second career. Some guys have a pretty darn good second career. If I was coaching him, I’d say, ‘OK, you made the mistakes you made. Let’s just start over. This is the second career. You’ve got a new swing. Let’s see what you can do with this one.’

“It wouldn’t totally surprise me if he were to win 35 to 40 times from now,” he said. “He could do it. The way he is playing right now, he is going to kick butt.”

Miller might be getting carried away, and that wouldn’t be the first time.

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