My esteemed co-author makes a persuasive case for why you ought to like Tiger Woods, and I find no fault either with MaconDawg’s position or with anyone who shares his view. Heck, when I got to go to a Masters practice round with my father and two of my cousins in 2000, there were three guys I wanted to see, and I was pleased to see all three of them: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tiger Woods.
That said, I don’t like Tiger Woods.
No, wait; that’s not exactly right. Woods is more in a category with Tim Tebow: I don’t dislike him as much as I dislike the media’s treatment of him. It is important to separate the two.
Last night, all we heard about on ESPN was Tiger’s second-round surge at Augusta. We saw highlights from Woods’s Friday round, we heard highlights from his press conference afterward, and we heard commentators talking about him. We heard next to nothing about the guy who, you know, was leading the tournament; we just heard about how Tiger was "back."
Maybe Tiger is back, but I seriously doubt it, and the third round sure seems to suggest that he isn’t. Maybe you’re rooting for him, maybe you aren’t, but we’re all suffering through the same struggle to see reality as it presently stands that we went through when Mike Tyson got out of prison and returned to the ring.
We had watched Tyson’s meteoric rise to the top as a young fighter who appeared to eclipse all that had come before in boxing; when Iron Mike went away, we assumed it was a temporary hiatus, an interruption that would make us appreciate his return all the more. We thought Tyson would come back the way Muhammad Ali did.
Only he didn’t. Tyson was never the same fighter again. In fact, Tyson was never close to being the same fighter again. It just took us a while to see it, because we still viewed Tyson through the lens of what he had been rather than seeing him for what he then was. Events that appeared bewildering in the moment were, in fact, easily explicable and probably predictable. In retrospect, all that was shocking about his fall was our utter obliviousness to it until well after the plummet was done.
So it may be with Tiger Woods. Maybe there’s another resurgence in him; maybe, 24 hours hence, we will be marveling at the sight of him grinning and donning the green jacket, but, five years ago, if I had approached you on the eve of a major and said I’d give you Woods if you’d give me the field, you’d have taken that bet in a heartbeat. How many takers would I find for that bet now?
Even now, it’s as hard not to see Tiger as the guy who gave up a baccalaureate degree from Stanford so he could get his Masters as it was not to see Tyson as the fighter who hit harder than anyone ever had before. Woods isn’t the golfer he was in 1997, though; heck, Woods isn’t the golfer Nicklaus was at the same point in his career. After very publicly and very embarrassingly going back for his bachelor’s degree, as it were, Woods likely will never again be anything like the golfer we once knew him to be, and we will look back later in genuine surprise when we realize we were witnessing a collapse when we believed we were observing a comeback.
At this point, you may be wondering, "What the heck does this have to do with University of Georgia athletics?" At least with Mike Tyson, after all, we had a Peach State connection, in the form of Evander Holyfield, to tie it all together for us. Here, for the record, is the relevance for those of us who bleed red and black:
After three rounds of the 2011 Masters, Eldrick Woods is tied for ninth place at five under par. He arrived at that spot on the leaderboard by carding a 74 on Saturday to finish at two over par for the round, dropping him from third place with a bullet. One of the four golfers tied with him for ninth place is Gerry Watson, who fired a five-under-par 67 on Saturday to charge up from a 37th-place tie.
Forget the fact that one of them went to school in California and the other went to school in Athens. Hey, we’re from Georgia; the choice between rooting for a guy called "Tiger" and cheering for a guy named "Bubba" is no choice at all. Woods was---is---yesterday’s news; Watson is our man.
I will be cheering for Bubba Watson to be fitted for a green jacket tomorrow, and I hope he wins the Masters with a 200-yard drive. Tiger tees off at 1:40 p.m.; Bubba tees off at 2:00 p.m.; I have set the comment thread to open at 10:00 a.m.