The Chip Is Off His Shoulder
Tiger's 0-for-10 slump in the majors ends with a special day at Augusta
There's no telling how many more majors Tiger Woods can win as long as you put him on golf courses with soft greens, no wind, trees to bounce off of, the luck of 10 overpaid CEOs and nobody to beat but a guy with a putting grip that looks like he's trying to change a tire or open a contrary bottle of wine.
OK, it was a grand accomplishment, this fourth Masters and 12th major for Tiger--as opposed to only nine majors that all the stubborn dolts choose to give him, taking six major amateur titles away from Bobby Jones at the same time.
But this victory, ending Tiger's majorless slump at 10, was helped by an incredible assortment of circumstances along with his ability to take advantage of them. It's certainly not easy to grab a major in any shape or form, and you'd think even more difficult when you're forced to play, thanks to the golf weather of 2005, 12 holes on Thursday, seven holes on Friday, 26 holes on Saturday and 28 holes on Sunday, counting sudden death.
Yeah, just your normal tournament. Twelve holes, seven, 26, 28.
Which tempts a man to say that the Masters always ends on the back nine early Sunday morning--that's where Tiger caught and passed the brave and gritty Chris DiMarco. But then this one started again on the back nine late Sunday afternoon, as it always does.
There's the theory that Tiger was helped when play was suspended and interrupted and toyed with the first two days. It enabled him to regroup, get his swing and attitude back together. This might well be true, because he came out of the box playing like a golf writer. A scooping, slashing, spraying, club-tossing typist, although he somehow salvaged a 74.
You might say he was also looking like those other guys in golfdom's so-called Big Five--Mickelson, Singh, Els and Goosen--who couldn't wait to go south in this Masters. Els went all the way to the Galapagos, finishing 47th, but Goosen (tied for third), Singh (tied for fifth) and Mickelson (10th) at least stayed on the continent, Goosen primarily due to a final-round 67.
The point is, they were never a factor Sunday afternoon, and neither was anybody else in the field while Tiger and DiMarco were putting seven strokes between themselves and third place. And this not only made it a trifle easier for Tiger, but it made the statement of some "experts" from earlier in the week look even sillier--that these five players are giving the sport its most glamorous period in history.
Oh, really? More glamorous than the era of Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino, Miller and Watson? Than the days of Hogan, Snead, Nelson, Demaret, Mangrum and Middlecoff? Than the years of Jones, Hagen, Sarazen and Armour?
Excuse a geezer while he giggles and slaps his knee.
THE SPIKE CONTROVERSY
Actually, the only time Mickelson and Singh livened up the place was during Spikegate. This was that welcome interlude during weather delays when the press trembled with excitement over the possibility of a feud, a scandal, an incident.
To recap: Phil wears metal spikes for better traction, and he'd switched to 8-millimeter jobs, a whole 2 millimeters more than most players use. On Friday when Vijay played directly behind Phil, he complained that Phil's extra-longs were leaving trenches and ditches in the greens, and said to the world in general and officials in particular that Phil should be horsewhipped or sent to bed without dinner, or something to that effect. Phil didn't like what he heard and, figuring that Vijay had a mouth that was getting a few millimeters too big, supposedly approached him for a chat about it in the Champions Locker Room.
Rumors about their exchange rumbled, sped, sailed and soared across the veranda and into the press center. This was more than a bored press could hope for. The writers braced themselves and their laptops for lob wedges at 20 paces.
Nothing happened, as you know, but I could have told everyone that. I was just outside the locker room and overheard their brief conversation. It went like this: