Tigers Woods

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Bernstein: Savoring Tiger Woods While We Can

We watch and hold out hope, yearning for the magic of the past.

Dan Bernstein
April 11, 2019 - 1:37 pm
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(670 The Score) ​​I'll do it to myself until I can't anymore, I realize. Or until he can't.

Tiger Woods is just close enough to resembling what we remember to allow us the embrace of old reflexes, the scanning of the leaderboard to see where he's at in a major tournament, anticipating a Sunday glued to the action that feels like it once did when we watched all-time greatness in sports right in front of our eyes, and everybody involved knew it.

Such comets cross our respective paths rarely, and we must go out of our way to appreciate them. It feels almost as if this elder iteration of Tiger is an entirely different person after the multiple surgeries on his knees, Achilles tendon and back, the various swing reconstructions and the sordid personal issues off the course. It's work to recall a more innocent time, all freer and easier.

But it is he, indeed, still pursuing Jack Nicklaus for the very last achievement that stands between him and unquestioned and absolute status as the greatest golfer to ever walk the planet.

So we watch and hold out hope, even if we're conditioned now to disappointment.

The field of competition is broad and deep, a generation of players hooked on the game in large part due to Woods himself, an irony never far from the surface of whatever the day's pairing may be. His global fame created this, even as he battles against it -- the latest round of collegiate stars let loose on the PGA, already having been recruited from the ends of the earth.

But we can see just enough to know he's still viable, and we remember when we saw it happen before.

Nicklaus was 46 in 1986, when he came to Augusta with his strange jumbo putter (technically a MacGregor Response ZT 615) and shot a final-round 65 that included a run of eagle-birdie-birdie on holes 15, 16 and 17 and allowed him to hold off Tom Kite and Greg Norman for his 18th and final major title. And that's when 46 seemed so much older than we now understand it to be.

Advances in medicine, training and equipment since that time have helped delay golf's aging clock, perhaps by an effective 10 years or so. It's that different. The way Nicklaus' accomplishment was discussed back then would be the way we'd hear such a performance described now for someone closer to 60 or perhaps beyond, as if Tom Watson at age 59 had held off Stewart Cink in that Open Championship playoff at Turnberry in 2009. It's no stretch that even a Woods this repaired and remodeled at a mere 43 can carry reasonable expectations, as he keeps up well enough with the distances being hit by the more youthful players.

So I will keep rooting for greatness in sports to assert itself as it once did, knowing the number of chances Tiger Woods has on these larger stages is dwindling. Bring Sunday with a red shirt and a black hat into the late afternoon, walking up the 18th fairway into lengthening shadows and another chapter in history.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​