Apr
11
2011
Tiger Watch: Jury Remains Out
By Conor Nagle under The Masters

We saw flashes of the old brilliance on Sunday

A jaw-dropping eagle on the eighth, a stunning approach to the fifteenth, no to mention the stunning run of scores that saw him burst into contention early on: Sunday’s final round offered glimpses of the old Woods resilience, that nearly superhuman ability to will the ball holewards. But for every moment of nearly unparalleled genius, we had another of fallibility, misses– at fifteen, twelve, thirteen– of the sort, you felt, the Woods of old would never have tolerated.

The press, predictably, don’t quite know what to make of it all:

CBS Sports‘ Mike Freeman leaves us in no doubt as to his reading of events. In the hopefully titled ‘Tiger’s charge proves he’s back, once and for all,’ he argues that not only is Tiger about to dominate the game again, but his performance on Sunday ranks up there with Jack Nicklaus’s come-from-behind victory twenty-five years ago. No, seriously. Allow me:

“It’s very possible I’m totally overstating, and probably [definitely] am, but this felt as impressive as Jack Nicklaus’ back-nine charge in 1986, and in some weird way it was better than any of Woods’ wins here… He initially went from prodigy kid to champion, from Cablanasian historical figure to eternal one, from cautionary tale to the present: a great comeback story…

No, Woods isn’t the nicest guy. He isn’t the cleanest cut. He isn’t the most gracious and he still hasn’t won a major in three years.

But Woods is back.

He’s back.”

Christine Brennan over at USA Today has a more convincing, but unforgiving, reading of the situation, noting both Woods’ spurned opportunites and the apparent loss of his intimidatory hold over the field:

“Woods was electrifying, but others were even better when it mattered most: Scott, 30, and Geoff Oglivy, 33, also shot 67s, while Schwartzel, 26, fired a 66, including four majestic birdies on the final four holes. Remember the days when Tiger roared and the others crumbled? Now he plays well, and they play better.

These are the young players who have learned from Tiger but aren’t afraid of him. Each time he doesn’t win, they become more emboldened.”

Brennan was also less than impressed with Woods’ behaviour over the weekend:

“Tiger’s uneven play is only part of the story of his confounding comeback from his unprecedented fall from grace. His uneven behavior is another part of the conversation, and it unfortunately doesn’t seem to be getting better, either.

Woods’ demeanor bordered on the terrible when shots weren’t to his liking this week. He pouted. He pounded his club into the ground. He walked away. He swore. And when he finished a round and didn’t like that, his answers in interviews were just as bad. (His CBS appearance Sunday has to be one of the 10 worst by a superstar in sports history.)”

The consensus view of Woods’ performance, to the extent that a clear one has emerged, remains filled with qualifications and caveats. Where do you guys place him in terms of progress or regression?
Conor