Tiger and the Ticking Clock

Posted: April 5, 2012 in The Masters
Tags: , , , , ,

Is Tiger back? That’s one of the most asked questions in all sports these days.

It’s safe to say Tiger Woods will never be the Tiger of 1997-2008 again. Even if he’d remained healthy and avoided the womanizing scandal that rocked his world three years ago, the first dozen years of his pro golf career is unmatched in sports for dominance by an individual. Its fantasy to think him or anyone else will ever duplicate such a run.

This year’s Masters, however, is the most important tournament of his career since he exploded on the scene in ’97 by winning the Masters in record-shattering fashion as a pro rookie. He’s healthy and he appears to have the command of his game again. Tiger understands at age 36 the clock is ticking in his quest to overtake Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 majors. He’s four shy of catching Nicklaus and he hasn’t won a major in nearly four years. He hasn’t won the Masters in seven years.

A victory this week will put him back on top of the golf world.

Augusta National, home of the Masters, has been Tiger’s playground. There was a time when it seemed the course was built for Tiger. Did the great Bobby Jones, founder of Augusta National, envision someone with Tiger’s power? His towering iron shots that landed so softly on the firm, rolling greens? His command of his nerves of the greens? His focus and mental toughness? His athleticism?

The course has been conquered by others for a variety of reasons. Six-time champion Nicklaus had the great combination of power, high ball flight and incredible touch on the greens. There have been others who felt right at home at Augusta National. Sam Snead’s power, Arnold Palmer’s power and steely nerves, Gary Player’s unwavering confidence, Nick Faldo’s precision and Phil Mickelson’s power and creativity all produced three or more Green Jackets.

No one, however, has ever seemed more at home at August National than Tiger – not even Nicklaus. Even during the worst slump of his career, Tiger has produced back-to-back ties for 4th in his last two Masters and tied for 6th in ‘09.

If Tiger is back to being close to the player he was he’ll get his 5th Green Jacket on Sunday. Augusta National is the stage where he must prove to himself and everyone else he is still capable of being the undisputed king of golf.

Another missed opportunity – no matter how well he plays – will be a clear sign that while he’s still a among the best of the world class golfers, he’s no longer in a class by himself.

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