Would a Tiger win compare to Jack's in '86?

April 09, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- At 10:03 a.m. this morning, a friend back home texted me two words: "Go tiger." Her note is a timely reminder that if Tiger Woods wins this Masters, it's a big story, a story that might cause creative artists of the keyboard to spin it warm and fuzzy, all "comeback," "courage," and "redemption." Within the hour, for instance, I was asked, "If Tiger wins, how does that compare to Jack winning in '86?"

There's no comparison. Jack's victory was universally celebrated. A long and distinguished career, thought to be in its ceremonial stages, suddenly became an athlete's greatest moment, a final-act reminder of the brilliance that had lit up the stage for 25 years. It had been six years since Jack's last victory in a major, two years since he'd won anything, and he was 46 years old, a grandfather in slacks too tight by a size or two.

Tiger hasn't won in a year and a half, so there is that if you want to speak of a quote-comeback-unquote. But it's not as if time has done its work; he's an athlete in his prime, a dozen years younger than Nicklaus in '86. Woods is coming back from an abyss of his own making: a confession of serial adultery, a stint in a sexual-addiction clinic, divorce from the mother of his two children.

This isn't Hogan after the Greyhound. It's not Jack one last time, cause for celebration so raucous it set magnolia leaves to quivering. Tiger's winning this time would be cause for the sound of one hand clapping.

Update: Woods shot 74 Saturday. Thirty-two of the field's 49 players had better scores. He is seven shots behind leader Rory McIlroy. He has played eight straight majors without winning one. That is his longest dry spell since he went 0-for-10 through the British of 2002 to the '04 PGA. Asked after his round Saturday if he could still win this Masters, Woods said, "Absolutely."

-- Dave Kindred