Tiger Woods Intimidates Again?
Tiger Woods shot a 62 in the second round of his own tournament this week, the Northwestern Mutual Challenge. Certainly, it takes a spectacular round to shoot 62 in the game of golf, and Tiger never went two holes without a birdie – Yes, I’m impressed…I’ve gone twelve years without one, and it wasn’t from the back tees.
Why are we making such a fuss over this particular round of golf, considering the fact that he shot a 61 at Firestone this past summer, and has a lot of other such low altitude rounds in his past? Partly, perhaps, because the Jack versus Tiger championship debate is having another one of its days. We watch the numbers, watch every stroke Tiger makes, watch the calendar and watch the clock. Will he do it before he becomes too decrepit, and his game falls into the simply excellent?
Maybe it’s because it used to be a Tiger pattern to obliterate the field early then have everyone wait around to see who will come in second. Ask Zach Johnson. In this tournament alone, he has come in second twice, and both times to Tiger. Ah, but there he is again, within striking distance, and maybe it will turn out differently this time. A 62 didn’t mean that Tiger will win this tournament for sure. In the third round, through the 5th, he’s only one up.
The 62 tells us that Tiger Woods can still play an unspeakable game of golf. He’s an athlete, not just a player. He’s a fanatic, not just a craftsman, and he wants to go down in history as the greatest that ever was. He will certainly be thought of that way by some, but Woods and Nicklaus are the Stradivari of their centuries. Tiger played it like Jascha Heifetz (look him up, it’s worth it) this week. Showing us that he still can suggests to us that he still might, so his profound 10 birdie round has kept the conversation alive – and as golf fans, we love it and want it.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell shot a 67 on the day that Tiger shot his 62, and it reminded me of a community marathon run I participated in with Olympic runners putting in an appearance. It was so exciting to see them, but five or ten paces later, it was “where did they go?” Never saw them again, even though I wasn’t that slow. My point – to shoot a 67 and fall farther and farther behind has got to be…vexing.
Then, there’s poor Rory, who appeared with the intent of carrying his momentum from Australia forward. He shot a 77, a 15 stroke disadvantage in one day to his favorite rival (cue giant iron wheels grinding to a halt).
The 62 was also interesting because of Brandel Chamblee’s reaction. You’d have thought he’d never seen such a thing (did he miss Firestone last summer?) It’ amazing what an undeniably great round of golf will change. I wonder if he’s studying tape to make sure it was on the up and up, but at least he pointed out what a great fast-greens putter Woods is. I didn’t know he practiced on hardwood floors. What a great idea – I’ll try it.
In our prodigy-oriented society, we forget that Tiger’s not old, not really, and won’t be for quite a while. Apparently, his wrists, knees and back are not forever out of whack and worn out, and he still feels the holy fire. Only the psychology of putting four great rounds together on one of the right four weeks in the year remains. He can do this at any time, but will he do it then?
Inter-era comparisons still sadden me, somewhat, and I’d prefer that we render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s in his own time. Jack was the great one (among other greats) in his time, and too much is different to really predict who would beat whom, when and how often, and who would be the greatest whatever in the whenever. For me, the world has room for a Jascha Heifetz in each generation – but this is Tiger, and we’re so crazy about him, and so mad at him, and so perplexed and amazed by him, that we’ll keep watching until the day he hangs up the clubs, whether we root for or against him.
That’s what was special about the 62. It reminded us of what greatness looks like, how anything is possible while Tiger is still on the loose, and how each one of us feels about it.