Nope -- not back yet.
Tiger is not back – please.
I don’t want to hear it. Yes, Tiger won another major; he’s halfway to Jack. He fought back from first round woes to do it. But so what? The old Tiger is not back.
Beginning the round with a three-shot lead, the Tiger of old – the Tiger Slam Tiger – appeared to surface, with birdies on the first two holes. But from that point in, the old Tiger disappeared and the lukewarm Tiger of new took over. (I must admit, “lukewarm” is indeed an odd way to describe any Masters winner, but given Tiger’s past dominance, his play on Sunday was relatively lukewarm, and that’s the point…)
Tiger Slam Tiger would not have let DiMarco back in. Tiger Slam Tiger would have continued to shut the door after starting with two birdies. He would have sunk a few more birdies. At worst, he would have tossed in pars. Instead, he bogeyed (5 and 10, in addition to 17 and 18), and he let DiMarco contend. That is not the old Tiger.
Most of all, the old Tiger would not have bogeyed 17 and 18, letting DiMarco force a playoff with mere pars. It just wouldn’t have happened. The man we saw collect all four major tournaments at one time simply would not have finished 2-over on the 71st and 72nd holes, allowing his playing partner back in the tournament. Worst of all, the old Tiger would not have shot a 37 on the closing nine when it actually mattered. No, that Tiger is not back.
As for his shot on 16? Enough. He hit a great pitch that should have been close. His knowledge of the green and ability to place the shot should have warranted a tap-in par. For that to go in? Lightning in a bottle. No more.
I will concede a few things. His ability to bounce back from his first round debacles ignited trappings of ’97, when he opened with a 40, only to come in with a back-nine 30. And his second and third rounds were indeed reminiscent of his major-championship dominance a few years ago.
Tiger may end up the greatest player to ever play the game. As we all know, only time will tell. I will readily concede that this is extremely possible. Tiger is – even as of now – one of the greatest talents we will ever see. However, his play on Sunday just didn’t show it. The old Tiger is not back.
Some may say I may be asking too much of someone. The Tiger Slam was one of the greatest achievements in all of golf. How can someone go back to that? Well, if we want to readily refer to Tiger as “the greatest” or “one of the greatest,” forgive me for maintaining high standards for the guy. I have too much respect for the history of the game to haphazardly bestow distinctions that might not have been earned – yet.
This year’s Masters did, however, achieve one thing. It allowed Chris “I’m far less talented than my brothers – even Daniel and Stephen” Baldwin to take another shot at Mickelson. I guess it’s alright. Everyone deserves an opinion, even those with a nauseatingly closed, one-tracked mind.
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