After the troubled times, trials, tribulations, trepidations, Tiger to the top question mark.
Tiger’s in the hunt to win his fifth Masters and 15th major championship exclamation mark.
The CBS network has canceled “Sunday Morning’’ in order to show Sunday Morning at Augusta National.
Because of a predicted rainstorm for the final round, the start times have been moved up. Masters leader Francesco Molinari, at 13-under par, will play with Tiger and Tony. Woods and Finau are tied for second at 11-under par.
Move over, “Meet The Press.’’ Golf is on.
Tiger won his first major at the Masters in 1997 at 21. He won his last major at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 at 32. In between, he won three other Masters, two National Opens, three British Opens and four PGA Championships. He is 43.
I’ve been a witness to all 14 and wouldn’t mind watching No. 15 on TV.
Jack Nicklaus finished first in 18 majors and was runner-up in 19. Jack and Gary Player struck ceremonial drives to signal the tournament’s beginning. Woods could sink the concluding putt at golf’s hallowed ground.
After Nicklaus and the late Arnold Palmer played a practice round at Augusta in the 1990s with the teenage Tiger, they told us in the media building that he could win more Masters than the two of them combined. They won 10 — including six by Nicklaus. Tiger won’t surpass that total unless he’s still winning in Georgia in his 60s. But he’s proving he’s not done.
For almost a decade almost nobody thought Woods would get out his own woods and way and triumph again. Considering his severe domestic problems and a wreck, a divorce and an arrest for driving affected by pain pills; his multiple injuries and surgeries; aging and months away from the course in multiple years; problems putting, chipping and driving; and being challenged by dozens of young golf gunners who could hit the ball as far and more accurately than he could, Tiger seemed on a spiral seemingly he couldn’t return and rise from. However, he has been a major factor in the previous two, with a tie for sixth at The Open and second at the PGA Championship.
In the past three days, old Tiger has become Tiger of old. His opening-round 70 was solid, but would have been spectacular if he hadn’t missed four rather makable birdie putts. On Friday Tiger’s putting improved, and he posted a sharp 68 that kept him close enough.
In ’97 I stood on the back veranda of the old Civil War-era plantation clubhouse with Dan Jenkins, the greatest golf writer of all time, who died recently, and several long-time employees of the club as Tiger became the grand marshal of the parade to the 18th green. It was one of the sweetest moments in the history of sports.
In 2000, at St. Andrews, Tiger won his 10th major after not once landing in the treacherous bunkers. He made a mockery of the Old Course and the field. A month earlier at the National Open at Pebble Beach, Tiger tamed the field and calmed the ocean.
He would achieve a Tiger Slam, four consecutive majors over two years.
Tiger and I had a friendly relationship throughout drive for glory. We shared a drink and a story while watching an NBA playoff game in the basement of a house he rented in Augusta. We talked as he fly-fished in the River Liffey that meandered through the K Club in Ireland. We ate breakfast near Tiffany’s in New York and lunch after he held a clinic for kids in Denver.
Our last visit was an hour after he won the Monday playoff in the ’08 U.S. Open when he could barely walk on a badly damaged knee that required surgery. We stood at Torrey Pines on a hill overlooking the Pacific and watched a sun that was beginning to settle.
Eventually, the sailor would fall from grace with the sea, and Tiger fell from domination of the game.
On Saturday, Tiger wasn’t chasing as much as catching. After a bogey at the fifth hole, he had a late span of six birdies in 11 holes before realizing par on 17 and 18.
He could complete an inconceivable comeback on Sunday.
It’s Tiger Turn.