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Thoughts from an airport bar

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Another Sunday afternoon. Another airport bar. This time it’s Newark, N.J., but there aren’t any players to be found. Most of them this week have their own planes and don’t often have to deal with TSA and overpriced drinks – those are included with the jet.

Once again I’m watching the end of the tournament I was covering (The Barclays) while waiting for my flight (and no sound again, which is kind of sacrilegious for my occupation) and contemplating Tiger Woods and what he accomplished this week.

First off, he hit the ball much better this week than he has in ages. Not perfect, but way better than I’ve seen him hit it in a couple of years (sorry, Hank). He had his hiccups, and as only Tiger can do, those hiccups are epic – like his first tee shot in Rd. 3, which evidently was found somewhere near Far Hills, N.J.

But he did accomplish goal No. 1 – he’s on to the next week of the playoffs. Who would have ever thought we’d have to contemplate that possibility? Not me, that’s for sure. And he’s in great position to play solidly next week and keep advancing.

In our fantasy picks this week, I selected Tiger because I thought that in his mind, the only way for him to salvage this season would be to win the FedEx Cup, and that possibility is still alive. Sure the optimism was rampant when he opened with 65 and people were speculating that Tiger was back. Not so quick – as that tee shot yesterday illustrated.

Golf Channel analyst Nick Faldo has been saying all along that the changes will take time – a lot of time – and one good round doesn’t put all those demons to rest. But Faldo believes, as does Peter Kostis, Brandel Chamblee and I, that he’s is on the right track. Granted, the previous track was so panned by his peers in private conversations that any change from the way he was swinging had to be an improvement. And he has definitely improved.

Now comes the really tough part. Can he take a new swing that as he said, “Is not natural yet,” and continue on like the Tiger we’re accustomed to? Time will tell, and that time is less than a month away. Can Tiger win the FedEx Cup? Really, is that possible after the accumulation of mental luggage that has occurred over the last nine months? I don’t know. I do know that if anyone can do it, it’s Tiger, but I’m inclined to doubt it.

But something in me is pulling for him. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m hoping he makes a run at it. It wouldn’t be remembered this way, but I would consider it one of the greatest comebacks in history. The man has been through a self-induced hell, and he’s not out of the woods (really, no pun intended) yet. He’s never had as much doubt in his head when standing over a shot than he has right now, and yet he still managed to manufacture some amazing shots this week.

It’s the playoffs, and regardless how maligned they are in the print media, I think they’re spectacular. The ramifications of every stroke continue to mount each day, and we wouldn’t have ever dreamed it three years ago. And Tiger is going to provide much of the drama – whether it be to simply advance each week, or perhaps, just perhaps, have a chance to win.

Update: Still no players, and still no sound.