Woods’ scandal already old news at Masters
The most noticeable difference between the Tiger Woods who left
and the one who came back is a pair of dark wraparound shades.
Cynics might think Woods donned the sunglasses to keep eye
contact to a minimum. It’s nothing that sinister.
“The pollen is just killing my eyes,” he said. “I’ve been
sneezing and hacking. So trying to keep it out of my eyes the best
Apparently, just about every question about how Woods would
regain his footing after a stunning fall from grace five months ago
has been answered. At least inside the gates of a golf course. He
followed up a 68 on Thursday, his best opening round ever at the
Masters, with a tougher-than-it-looked, two-under-par 70 on Friday
and the only thing he was asked about afterward – besides the
sunglasses – was the state of his game.
“How did the course play?”
“Can you take us through your second shot on 17?”
“Do you like your spot on the leaderboard right now?”
“Do you feel like you might start living your more normal
Woods handled every one but the last one with relative ease.
“I would like to, but I don’t know,” he said. “I’m going to
have to evaluate some things after this event.”
His on-course conduct won’t be part of the review. The new
fan-friendly Woods casually handed his glove to a spectator as he
walked off the tee at the third hole, doffed his cap in response to
another standing ovation at the 12th, and good as his word, tamped
down both his celebrations and tantrums the rest of the way around
The fist-pumps after a pair of birdies dropped at Nos. 13 and 15
were even more muted than those a day earlier. His knees buckled a
little less when he missed another makeable birdie try at No. 16.
And keep in mind that Matt Kuchar, who played with Woods both days,
thought he was already surprisingly low-key on Thursday.
“I read a quote he had about just trying to be more level on
the golf course and there were a few putts yesterday I expected
maybe a little bit bigger reaction,” Kuchar said.
What didn’t surprise Kuchar was the way Woods played.
“I think that after he won the U.S. Open on one leg, we all
realized that he could pretty much do anything. And never would we
really second guess his ability on the golf course. It’s pretty
“I have no idea what he’s been doing the last 144 days, there’s
no telling,” he added. “It was pretty amazing how he could hide
as well as he could, for so long.”
Other than a stint in rehab, the only thing we know for certain
about Woods’ whereabouts since his SUV careened out of control down
the driveway is that he spent a lot of time on the practice range.
He’s been asked several times about how he managed to stay so sharp
without the benefit of even one warm-up tournament, and each time
Woods replied the same way.
“As I said in here yesterday, it’s very similar to what Hogan
went through coming off the accident,” Woods said, referring to
Ben Hogan, but conveniently leaving out the fact that Hogan didn’t
crash his own car.
“Just couldn’t play that much and when you can’t play, you have
to concentrate on your practice. It would have been nice to
actually have a normal schedule and play, but that’s neither here
nor there. I had to make sure that I got everything I possibly
could out of every practice session,” he added.
So far, that time appears well spent. Win or lose, when the
Masters ends Sunday, Woods will have to sit down and map out his
schedule for the rest of the year. It almost certainly will include
the U.S. Open in June at Pebble Beach, where Woods won in 2000 en
route to posting the lowest score ever in relation to par at an
Open. The month after that, the British Open returns to St.
Andrews, where Woods has won twice.
Some people thought the sex scandal that cost Woods his
reputation, some sponsors and fans also would cost him the chance
to pass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
Now they might have to reassess.
On the admittedly slim evidence of just two rounds, his future
looks bright enough that Woods actually might have a reason to wear
shades for something other than pollen.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org