Golf: Tiger is wounded but still very dangerous

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By Mike Cote

Depending on which side of “The Pond” you’re on, arguably the biggest event in the realm of golf is upon us once again.
Monday begins the practice rounds at Augusta National, which hosts The Masters tournament.
With the possible exception of St. Andrews, Augusta is the most storied course in golf. Augusta has hosted some of the most exciting (I’m using “exciting” in relative terms, of course) golf that has ever been witnessed.
As a player I met a few years ago told me, “the grass is like carpet” at Augusta. There is little about the place that isn’t eye-catching, even for the non-golfer.
The Masters is about the only tournament of the year I pay a whole lot of attention to. I like golf. I play a game that can, on rare occasion, be mistaken for golf. I glance at the leaderboards of big events when I get a chance.
I can’t say, however, that I find watching golf on TV particularly entertaining, a large part of the reason I don’t follow it that closely. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to watch people that actually know what they’re doing sticking an approach within three feet of the pin, something I do quite often, if you count my 4-foot putts as approaches.
But I enjoy The Masters. It comes at the perfect time: too cold to be outside and right after the NCAA basketball tournaments and before baseball starts to get interesting.
Of course, what Masters season would be complete without the pundits writing off Eldrick “Tiger” Woods?
I just finished reading a column about the demise of Tiger online. Stick the fork in him. He’s done. Just Google Tiger Woods and you’ll find page after page saying Eldrick is licked. Finito. Drive home safely.
I respectfully disagree.
Folks have been writing Woods off for years, so far, to no avail. Prior to the 2005 PGA season, after Tiger had gone two whole seasons without winning a major tournament, he was done. He won two majors in 2005.
In 2006, after the death of his father and missing the cut at Winged Foot, he was done. He went on to win The Open and the PGA Championship that year.
Granted, more recent events have put a new spin on the “Tiger’s Toast” theory experts have been espousing.
The past 24 months or so haven’t been the best ever for Tiger. He’s struggled with his game. He’s struggled coming back after knee surgery. Oh, and there was that infidelity and one-car accident thing.
Yes, Tiger hasn’t won a major since 2008. Yes, his skills have shown signs of diminishing. Yes, his personal life has proven to be a monumental distraction for him from his game, a distraction he can blame on no one but himself.
However, unlike pretty much all of his detractors would have you believe, you don’t win 14 majors by accident. You don’t score three career Grand Slams by just showing up. You don’t pick up four green jackets from Augusta just because the pro shop was having a sale (well, I suppose you could, but you know what I mean).
Am I saying that Eldrick is a shoo-in at The Masters this year? Of course not. He’s not the player he used to be. Even if he was, there are a lot of guys who aren’t too shabby either and a couple of stray shots at Amen Corner can drop you off the leaderboard before you can say “Hootie Johnson.”
But writing off Tiger is just plain silly. He’s come back before and odds are he’ll come back again. And if he’s going to bounce back anytime soon, Augusta — where he has 11 top-10 finishes, including, if you’re memory is slipping as fast as Tiger’s game is supposed to be, a fourth-place finish in 2010 — is a good place for him to start.