THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – This was the kind of day that left you racing for the nearest search engine.
OK, let’s type in the date … and now let’s plug in April 10, 2014 … and now click the button to calculate the time between them … and …
There are 17 weeks until then. Or, if you prefer, 125 days. Three thousand hours; 180,000 minutes or just a few notches above 10 million ticks of the seconds hand.
That’s all that exists between the time you’re reading these words and the opening round of the 80th edition of the Masters.
It’s relevant because Tiger Woods already looks like he’s ready for that day. He posted a course record-tying 10-under 62 in the second round of his own Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, grabbing a two-shot lead entering the weekend. He hit 12 of 13 fairways and all 18 greens in regulation. The one fairway he missed? Second hole. Missed it by a yard. Maybe less.
Asked afterward whether he was displeased with any shots, Woods had to think for a few seconds.
“Not many,” he said with a smile, and then admitted, “The putt on 17 wasn’t very good. I blocked the hell out of that one.”
That would be a 6-footer. For birdie. After carving a brilliant tee shot on the par 3.
That’s the kind of day it was. One where Woods’ gravest mistakes really weren’t mistakes at all, but merely small failures to take advantage of favorable situations. He carded 10 birdies, eight pars and nothing worse. His score was five strokes better than the next best competitor – in a field that features 17 other top-30 players, no less.
“I left myself in some good spots most of the day,” he explained afterward. “Most of my putts I made. … I hit a lot of good shots, leaving myself in these spots so my putts weren't really that difficult to make.”
“Tiger shot one of the easier 10-unders I’ve seen in a while there,” said playing companion Graeme McDowell, who posted a 67 of his own and still got steamrolled. “I can’t think of a shot he missed. It was Tiqer-esque. He missed the pins on the side you’re supposed to miss them; ball flight with control was exceptional. Drove the ball really well. Best I’ve seen him drive it in a while. It was good. Impressive. It was fun to watch. Fun to play with.”
It all appeared so effortless, like he was on cruise control, that we can be excused for collectively allowing our minds to wander – specifically to April 10, that first round of the Masters and next chance for Woods to continue his pursuit toward a 15th major championship and a fifth green jacket.
The way he played on Friday wasn’t unique to Sherwood Country Club. No, that game will travel, those big drives and stuffed approaches and fearless putts enough to get the job done on any course in the world.
And so we start thinking. If he swings the club like this … and putts like this … and has this type of confidence … well, he can’t lose.
Anyone who has picked Woods to win any major championship title in the last five years understands that such analysis is foolhardy at best and foolish at worst. But that doesn’t make envisioning it any less tempting.
It makes us wish we could press the fast-forward button on the world and stop 125 days into the future. Not just to see Woods take his A game to Augusta, Tiger’s performance comes on the heels of worldwide wins from a half-dozen of the game’s top-25 players in the last few weeks alone.
Admit it: You’d trade missing those postcard-perfect scenes from Hawaii and the tradition of the West Coast swing and the furious competition of the Florida foursome if you could wake up tomorrow and watch the Masters, golf’s version of Christmas morning. Come to think of it, you’d probably even trade Christmas morning for it.
Certainly the man who could hardly name a shot that displeased him on Friday would make a similar trade. Surely, if given his choice, Woods would close his eyes and twitch his nose and click his heels and be on the first tee at Augusta with the very same game that earned him an easy 62.
"No,” laughed a weary Woods, ready for a winter break. “Not at all. Two more rounds.”
Hey, at least there’s some good news. After those two more rounds, it will only be 123 days until the first round of the Masters.