AUGUSTA, Ga. – The chairman was right, regarding what was said and left unsaid. Tiger Woods is not bigger than game, but to window dress the first half of the year’s first major with stories of on-course heroics, of which there have been plenty through 36 holes, is akin to bringing a spork to a knife fight.
The time for golf, just golf and nothing but golf is fast approaching, but before the Masters starts on the back nine Sunday history compels “Cut Line” to put a bowtie on the “return.”
Billy Payne. The Augusta National chairman is proving to be as savvy as former regimes were dogmatic, and his unprovoked trip to the metaphorical wood shed with Tiger Woods on Wednesday was every bit a necessary step in the re-entry process as those 45-days of rehabilitation.
We can’t say for certain what Payne’s motives were, nor do we care. What’s important is that someone Woods’ respects, be it begrudgingly or otherwise, drew a line at what is acceptable behavior.
“His future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change” Payne said in his annual “State of the Masters” address to the media. “I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.”
In a sport that is often dominated by enablers, perhaps the only place that could took a stand.
Woods’ play. The jury is out, will be for a while actually, on whether the new, improved version is changed. But his play on the course is reason No. 1,856 why he will go on to be the greatest who ever played the game.
For 15 years Woods struggled mightily on Day 1 at the Masters – having posted just five under-par rounds and not a single round in the 60s – and with 15-minutes of infamy weighing heavily on him this week 2010 didn’t look like the year he’d finally break strong out of the gate.
So much for neatly crafted theories. His opening 68 could have been better had a few more putts dropped and he called his second-round 70 even better considering the conditions. He also treated the crowd to what may be the shot of the week, a sweeping approach from the left rough at No. 9 on Thursday from 207 yards that set up an 8-foot birdie putt.
“It feels good to be back in contention,” Woods said.
Yes, it does.
Competition committee. Day 1 at the Masters may have been the most eventful in decades, if not ever. Most agreed Thursday’s pins were as kind as Augusta National can offer and there is a good chance the softer side of the Georgia gem didn’t come about by chance.
The best way for a curious public to move beyond the Tiger Show was a leaderboard dotted with legends (Fred Couples and Tom Watson) and headliners (Woods, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood) and few places can serve up storylines better than Augusta National.
For a public seeing red, and not the traditional Sunday shade, the best way to change the subject was with some old fashion red on the leaderboard.
Tweet of the Week: @danjenkinsgc “Watson, Couples, Lyle and Langer, all 50 and up, are all under par. Maybe Jack and Arnold should have gone 18.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Monday’s media meet-and-greet. Woods’ long-awaited mass Q&A was a clean card by most accounts, with revelations of a previously unknown Achilles injury and a long-awaited answer regarding his association with Canadian Dr. Anthony Galea, who is under investigation for treating his patients with performance-enhancing drugs.
There were, however, questions left unanswered that will continue to haunt Woods no matter how well he plays.
His refusal to say what he was receiving treatment for will only lead to more questions and, holding true to his old form, he continues to be coy about his schedule this year.
What happens between Woods and his wife is no one elses business. What happens between the ropes this year is.
Nike Golf. A Swoosh commercial aired this week with a voiceover from Woods’ father, Earl, who passed away in 2006, that has been widely blasted by the press and public.
Devil’s advocate time, here. Nike Golf has a sizable investment in Woods. An investment that, much like “Cut Line’s” 401k, has been laying dormant for the better part of five months and the company, like Woods, had to move forward.
As for the use of Earl Woods in the ad, although it may seem distasteful to some, would the company have been better off airing a traditional go-fight-win campaign? Wouldn’t that have seemed trite given the circumstances?
Besides, we’re pretty sure Earl wouldn’t have minded.
Mean people. Above all else Woods has been rather clear on this, he did wrong in his personal life. Terribly, terribly wrong. And not a single patron on Thursday was unaware of his transgressions and yet still someone with plenty of means felt they needed to remind all those on hand why Woods has been out of the game for five months.
To be honest, we were not surprised someone rented a plane and crafted signs that were critical of Woods. More concerning, however, were the messages. One line was pinched from a Jay Leno monologue and the other was less than original. If you’re going to go through all the trouble of buzzing Augusta National, we expect better.
Collective moral flexibility. More than one Tour wife found the reception the world No. 1 received on Thursday a bit more embracing than they would have expected. Forgiveness is one thing, carte blanche support that borders on denial is an entirely different malady.
“I just feel sorry for Elin,” said one Tour wife.
It is a sad testament to our society that Woods’ abilities with a golf club are not mutually exclusive to his inability to control his urges.