I WANT TO HATE Tiger Woods. I want to hate him for the scandal. I want to hate him for the arrogance. I want to hate him for the cockiness and the way he treats other people. There are a million reasons for why I want to hate Woods.
But I can’t do it.
Despite everything that has happened to Woods since his black Escalade crashed into a firehydrant two Thanksgivings ago, I still find myself rooting for him.
For all of the reasons there are to not like Woods, the one reason to like him — to me — outweighs them all.
Woods makes golf entertaining.
I haven’t paid close attention to golf since the final round of the Masters back in April. Several friends and I were on a roadtrip when Woods started his round. Woods entered that round seven strokes back and we took to the road with the tournament far from our minds.
But then, I got a text a few hours into the drive that said Woods was on fire. His drives were scorching the fairways. Approach shots were ripping the green with the backspin that Woods used to be famous for and putts were finding the bottom of the hole.
We continued our drive and with every town we passed I’d get text updates.
Birdie on six.
Birdie on seven.
He eagled eight!
By the time he hit the back nine, we had to pull over and find a Wi-Fi connection to watch the rest of the round on my phone.
Woods didn’t win the tournament, but for the first time since the scandal, golf was entertaining again.
Then he got injured. A bad knee and Achilles have sidelined Woods for the last three months.
In that time I haven’t watched much golf.
I watched a little when Rory McIlroy had his amazing showing at the U.S. Open and everyone was quick to appoint him as the next Woods.
But it wasn’t the same. It felt forced. It seemed like everyone knew how big of hole Woods’ absence made. If anybody under 30 won the tournament by more than a few strokes, they would have been appointed the “next one.” It just so happened that McIlroy put together a round for the ages and won by eight strokes. He turned into the savior. But a sub par British Open brought everyone back to their senses. McIlroy may still yet become a great like Woods, but not yet.
So it was with curiosity and— dare I say — a little bit of excitement that I turned on the Golf Channel Thursday morning to catch Woods’s return round at the Bridgeston Invitational. Like everyone, I wanted to know if Woods was back. How was he hitting the ball? How did his knee look? More importantly, did he look like the Woods we used to know?
The majority of the front nine was boring. He was even through the front-nine, and he took to the 10th tee and sent a drive far off to the right of the fairway.
Then something happened.
About 120 yards out, Woods took out his wedge and took aim at the green. In the past this was a shot that you would watch Woods take and know he was about to stick it. But for the last two years it seemed like he’d be lucky to just hit the green.
He swung hard, taking up plenty of earth. The ball soared towards the pin. The camera clipped to Woods as the ball was in flight. Woods looked at his shot for not even a second before putting his head down and walking towards the pin. He knew it was good. And as that ball landed about 10 feet in front of the hole, then spun back as if it were being pulled by a string to within 5 feet of the cup, I felt a chill.
Woods may or may not be back for good. He may shoot a 80 today and miss the cut. But for that one shot yesterday, he was.
I’ve learned that I’m not cheering for the man. From all accounts I doubt Woods is the type of guy that I would like to share a round with. But I like to cheer for greatness. I like to root for perfection.
Woods throughout the years has been the closest thing sports has seen to perfection. We’ve been without that for the last two years and golf — and sports — has suffered. Has perfection returned to golf? That’s still to be decided. But it made an appearance on Thursday, if only for one hole.
Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.