AUGUSTA, Ga. -- I'm walking toward the 11th green when Tiger Woods gets in the way. He has hit a tee shot so far right it's outside the ropes, in the trees, and he's down on his haunches picking pine straw away from his ball. This is where he's been most of the last year and a half, trying to figure a way out of trouble. Suddenly, he can't drive it into the ocean from the end of the pier. (Yeah, open season on Eldrick. A wise guy at the golf writers' dinner last night -- whose initials are Rick Reilly of ESPN -- said Tiger has a five-hole course on his new property. "He played alone the other day," Reilly said, "and finished T-37.")
Anyway, Tiger takes a couple phantom swings, no club in his hands. Plucks what looks like a 4-iron. Stands behind the ball, looking for air through the trees. "Gotta go under these branches," one fan said, "and over those, like, y'know, a low, rising draw." (Sometimes known as a miracle.) Now Tiger closes his eyes as if in meditation, three, four, five seconds. Opens his eyes, looks at the treetops, close eyes. Two, three seconds this time. Closes again, opens more quickly. Repeats, hardly more than a blink. Now, ready.
Tell you what, when Tiger Woods hits an iron shot, the sound of the ball against the clubface is a click you could set to music. "Holy mackerel!" the fan says. "Is it hookin', Tiger?" No answer from Tiger, who is striding in pursuit already. From 240 yards, the shot winds up 30 yards short of the green. A pitch goes 10 feet past. Misses the putt. Bogey.
-- Dave Kindred