Tuesday 12 November 2019

Tiger's stroll down memory lane

No sign of chip-yips as Woods makes mockery of premature obituaries and wins back respect with sparkling 69

A weary-looking Tiger Woods acknowledges the crowd after coming off the 18th green at Augusta yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A weary-looking Tiger Woods acknowledges the crowd after coming off the 18th green at Augusta yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Lawrence Donegan

And now for the latest resurrection news from Augusta National: Lazarus can take a seat in the clubhouse for the weekend because here comes Tiger Woods.

The former world No 1 is not all the way back to the top of the Masters leaderboard at the halfway stage of the 2015 edition of golf's spring classic but he's not far off after an intermittently brilliant, occasionally ordinary but always compelling stroll down memory lane yesterday that left him signing for a second-round 69.

His 36-hole total of 142, two-under par, won't have troubled the sweet dreams of overnight leader Jordan Spieth.

But the same can't be said about Woods' army of obituarists, the swing doctor quacks and armchair pontificators who had the great man dead and buried, his career brought to an end by a terminal case of the chipping yips.


How will they respond when so publicly confronted with the weightlessness of their own opinions? How are they going to cope with pain of knowing Woods has made a fool of them again?

He will care little about the embarrassment of the critics, although knowing him their names will have been noted and his satisfaction will be savoured in due course. But these are the secondary pleasures of a true genius. Right now, the world No 111 (yes, he really has fallen that low) believes he still has a golf tournament to win.

"Anything can happen here," he said after his round.

There is an element of whistling to keep the spirits up about such proclamations. Even Woods can't believe it is possible to overcome Spieth, whose performance over the last two days recalls nothing so much as the heyday of the young Tiger Woods.

Still, regardless of Sunday's outcome, the former world No 1 has already secured a victory only marginally less valuable than the Green Jacket itself.

He has won back respect. He has earned himself the right to be taken seriously when the great and good of modern game gather to battle for the sport's biggest prizes.

No longer is he a figure of ridicule; the duffer of chips, the back-clutching embarrassment who scuttles off the course claiming injury at the first sign of trouble.

The Woods who stumbled through last year, who finished dead last at a PGA Tour event in Phoenix earlier this spring, has gone. Whatever he lost in those wilderness months, he has seemingly rediscovered.

That much was clear from the moment he finessed his approach on the first hole to eight feet, a magnificent shot to a sadist's flag tucked on a ledge at the back of the green. He followed that by rolling in the birdie putt, a rare event on a hole that was amongst the most difficult on the course all day.

He spurned birdie chances on the second and third but the mere fact that he fashioned such chances was evidence enough to support his pre-tournament claims he had "found something".

What he did find was fairways - 10 of 14 - and greens in regulations - 14 of 18. And even when he erred, as he did in missing the 11th fairway wide to the right, he responded with the cussed genius that used to be his stock in trade, whacking his approach shot around and over trees to 15 feet. His birdie there was one of only four all day.

And what of his "incurable" chipping yips? Well, he did flub a little wedge shot from the right side of the sixth hole but that hardly earned him membership of an exclusive club. Everyone is entitled to make short-game mistakes around this treacherously set-up Augusta National course and, Spieth aside, everybody has.

More tellingly in the context of Woods' recent travails, he fashioned a wonderful recovery after under-clubbing his tee shot on the long par-three fourth hole, chipping over the cavernous bunker at the front of the green to tap-in distance.

On the par-five eighth hole, a birdie was his reward for another beautifully-executed pitch shot. Three months ago, he offered no solution to such situations, only entertainment for the ghouls and comedy writers who feasted on his apparent demise.

Out in 34, Woods came home in 35 for a 69 and a spot comfortably inside the top 20. So much for the notion that the best Woods could hope for was making the cut. He did that - and he did a whole lot more. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


Green jackets keep Woods wrapped up

TV fans only got the briefest of glimpses of former World No 1 Tiger Woods' second round at Augusta yesterday.

Augusta does not allow full coverage to begin until 3pm local time, meaning that only Woods's last two holes were broadcast on CBS and Sky Sports.

Woods's three-ball was also not chosen as one of the featured groups which are shown live on official websites.

This was Augusta's choice, as everything is when it comes to television.

Augusta could easily get more than the $193million (€180m) a year the United States Golf Association receives from Fox for the US Open in a 12-year deal.

Because of these huge sums, the USGA has to take Fox Sports's interests into account.

The green jackets would not even contemplate such a scenario.

The Masters is their tournament and if they do not wish anyone to see one of the greatest players in the world, apart from the patrons on-site at Augusta National, then that is exactly what will happen.

As it did yesterday.


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