“Don’t call it a comeback ... I’ve been here for years! Rockin’ my peers ... puttin’ suckas in fear!”
I’m not sure if Tiger Woods is actually a fan of LL Cool J, but if he had been pumpin’ that bass and screamin’ those lyrics from the clubhouse locker room at Augusta National following his final-round 67 that gave him a temporary share of the lead at the 2011 Masters, you really couldn’t blame him.
It did look like a comeback for Woods, at least for part of the weekend, and judging by the final-round play of 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy, who seemed to come unnerved by every roar of the Tiger gallery a few holes in front of him on his way to an unimaginable 80, he seemed to be once again putting suckas in fear.
The winner of the 2011 Masters was somebody named Charl Schwartzel, but once the green jacket had been ceremoniously placed upon his shoulders by Phil Mickelson, the golf world turned its attention once again back to its real top story: Woods.
For a few mesmerizing hours on Friday and Sunday, it looked as though the most dominant figure in golf was all the way back from the longest winless period of his career, and poised to claim his fifth green jacket at Augusta. He shot 31 on the back nine of Friday’s second round, pulling to within three shots of the 21-year-old McIlroy, and another 31 on the front side Sunday. His booming drives and pinpoint approaches were reminiscent of the time when golfers trembled in their soft spikes at the mere sight of his name climbing a leaderboard heading toward the weekend.
It was a time not so long ago.
So does Tiger’s performance at the Masters mean that he’s fully recovered from the humiliation of a sex scandal and a destroyed marriage, along with another rebuilt swing?
I made the mistake one year ago of thinking that Woods was mentally tough enough to withstand the glaring eye of a disgusted public that once adored him, because he returned from his self-imposed hiatus to shoot 277 at Augusta, tying for fourth behind winner Phil Mickelson.
“He won’t win a major this year,” I wrote, referencing the universal opinion prior to the 2010 Masters that Woods would not return at a high level due to the emotional and psychological toll of his crumbling marriage. “He’ll win two.”
I truly believed that only he was capable of blocking out the personal distractions and continuing to dominate his sport.
An entire season without a victory proved me wrong.
I won’t make the same mistake twice.
This time, I’m not going to ignore the third-round 74 that virtually erased the second-round 66 that put him in contention. I’m also going to give more weight to Sunday’s back-nine 36, when a 34 or better would have put even more pressure on Schwartzel, McIlroy and eventual runner-up Jason Day.
Woods admitted he left three or four shots on the course on the back side, including an eagle putt he pushed right on 15 that would have given him the outright lead and changed the course of the round for the challengers behind him.
Those are the shots the old Tiger always made. Always.
The new Tiger? He hasn’t made those shots. Not yet, anyway.
“Explosion, overpowerin’ ... over the competition, I’m towerin’!” LL declares in “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
Will Tiger ever make that declaration again? We’ll see.
Mama said knock down some putts first.
Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.