FORE! The love of the game
Welcome to my first golf column of the season. Now that the weather has finally come around — and local courses are greening up, it’s time to talk golf.
And there is plenty to talk about.
For starters, Tiger Woods is back! He has reclaimed his No. 1 world status, already winning three tournaments in 2013 — The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, The World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship at Doral, and The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
All of Tiger’s wins this year have come at courses where he has played very well throughout his career — especially Bay Hill in Orlando, where Tiger has won a record eight times.
No one — from Ben to Byron, Babe to Bobby, Sam to Seve — neither Jack nor Arnie have won eight times at one venue.
Q. — And guess where Tiger is playing this week?
A. — The Masters at Augusta National. Where Tiger is always at his best — having won four times.
In case you don’t remember, Tiger Woods won his first “Major” at The 1997 Masters, early in his rookie season on tour the PGA tour.
Tiger followed up that impressive win with repeat performances in 2001, 2002, and 2005 — giving him four Green Jackets to date.
Arnold Palmer has the same number of green jackets in his closet. And there is only one golfer with more green in his wardrobe — Jack Nicklaus, who won The Masters an unbelievable six times.
With a win at this year’s Masters, Tiger Woods will be just one jacket shy of “The Bear” himself.
So what are Woods’ chances of winning The Masters again this week? If my Google search to confirm these statistics is any sample, Tiger Woods is “trending” as the clear favorite.
All aspects of his golf game are clicking right now, and Woods has spent the past few days at Augusta National — playing, practicing, and perfecting his game. And his confidence — even his swagger — is back.
If you are thinking of joining Tiger on the links in Augusta, here’s a little Masters MasterCard commercial I have created up to discourage you:
A round of golf at TPC Sawgrass — $375; Chasing around Pebble Beach — $475; 18 holes at Augusta National — Priceless!
Yes, the cost of playing golf at the home of The Masters really is priceless. There is no publicized rate for either a round or a membership. The only way to play at Augusta National is to be asked by a member, who has been sworn to secrecy.
Membership at Augusta National is another priceless proposition. There is no published rate for either the initiation or annual membership fee — though the annual ticket is thought to be around $10,000.
Then there’s that whole Augusta National gender issue. If you happen to have two X chromosomes instead of one — the likelihood of your playing at or becoming a member at Augusta National are Virginia Slims to none.
To date, only two women have brought pink alongside of the green jackets — Darla Moore, the undeniable first female CEO of IBM; and Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State under the George W. Bush administration.
But let’s get back to Tiger Woods’ chances at The Masters this year. This is the Tiger of old — the legend who most of us looked up to until his fall from grace in 2010.
For those two lean years Woods looked more like the emaciated, shipwrecked Tiger in the movie “Life of Pi” than our beloved, fist-pumping champion of golf.
In “Life of Pi,” two stories emerged at the end of the movie — one outrageous tale of triumph and survival with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, and another more ordinary, and more believable story fraught with human frailty.
Like the journalist who interviewed Pi to conclude the movie, I prefer the story with the Tiger. It is “the better story.”
And if I could be in the gallery following Tiger Woods on his final round at The Masters this year, you’d hear me shouting every time he teed off — “In the hole, Richard Parker!”