It came as no surprise when David Leadbetter, in town for a corporate outing with Callaway, was asked if he took Tiger or the field in the upcoming Masters. The answer was a no-brainer for the renowned swing guru.
You have to take Tiger. Theres no two ways about it, he said. The guys playing great. His belief system is so strong. The fickleness of the game is such that, hey, something could happen. You never know and somebody could get hot. If hes in the mix or thereabouts, then youve got to take Tiger.
Look, the guys a freak. Hes super human. Hes got a power that nobody else has, the ability he has to call upon that inner strength, said Leadbetter.
Of course, Tiger being a favorite in the Masters comes as no surprise whether its Leadbetter or Joe in the coffee shop making the prediction. TW is always the center of attention, but he gets tongues wagging even more when he busts out as he did on his just-concluded streak of victories that ended at Doral.
While that and anything he accomplishes at Augusta this year are relatively short bursts of greatness, they are chapters in the encyclopedia that Woods continues to write and Leadbetter is enjoying the ride, marveling at the evolution that continues with the No. 1 players in the world.
Theres always going to be little changes, said Leadbetter of the swing changes Woods has made over the years.
You look at Hank Haney working with Tiger. It was a new challenge that Tiger wanted. Obviously, he was very successful with Butch Harmon. Im sure its probably not the last changes Tiger is going to make in his career because he feels theres something to challenge his imagination.
Thats what he needs. Sometimes, the mind gets bored, said Leadbetter.
Of course, people wait for giants to fall. Remember the predictions that Tiger would lose his edge when he got married and when he became a father? How about the time Vijay Singh took over the No. 1 ranking?
Then, there was all that talk about the Big Four or Big Five challenging him, but that never happened, at least not consistently. Now, the theory is that he will lose his edge when he inevitably beats Jack Nicklaus record of 18 major victories.
Sometimes, you wonder if the doubters have trouble dealing with the fact that Woods is great or whether he is that great, which has been the case with many phenoms in other sports. As long as Woods remains curious, his mind stays active and the Tiger evolution continues, his longevity is timeless at this point.
As successful as he was over the first decade-plus in his career, he is a different golfers than in his rookie year. You dont have to look any farther than his play on the greens to illustrate that point, according to Leadbetter.
Tiger was not as great a putter as he is now, he said. People fail to realize ' sure, you talk about how far he hits it, the shots he hits ' but ultimately, it all boils down to the putts that he holes at the right time.
Hes just unbelievable, the way hes able to read greens, to translate that into feel, be able to hit the putt.
Just think of all the putts ' the one he holed at Bay Hill, or the one he holed in Dubai.
Hes got that sixth sense. Hes got that intangible, whatever you want to call it. Hes just an amazing specimen. Hes got it physically, mentally, technically, said Leadbetter, adding the changes since his rookie year dont stop on the greens.
I think the biggest thing is that hes got much more versatility. Hes got a lot more shots, he said, adding that Woods now swings softer, with less of an athletic move on the ball, yet still gets incredible results.
Hes getting old now. Hes in his early 30s, joked Leadbetter about Tiger now compared to Tiger 10 years ago.
The scary part is that he is just entering his prime. Its impossible to speculate that far into the future, but as long as the evolution continues, curiosity wont kill this cat and we will be talking about Tiger the same way 10 years from now as we are today.
Email your thoughts to Ian Hutchinson
Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.