That’s what makes all this talk about the “dream pairing” of Tiger and Phil Mickelson in the first two rounds of the Open at Torrey Pines so silly. It’s only a dream if both golfers are on top of their games. And Tiger doesn’t even know what kind of game he has.
As in 2006, Tiger has been off for two months, this time after undergoing surgery on his knee. He last played a full round at the Masters. The Open, with its narrow fairways, excruciating length, punitive rough and lightning greens is hardly the place to get one’s game back.
It’s been said elsewhere and will be said again: Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer on the planet, will be lucky to make the cut. Even Hillary Clinton wouldn’t predict a victory in his situation.
This is why there are two outstanding reasons to watch the early-round coverage. The first is that by Friday evening, Tiger Woods may well be packing his bags onto his private jet and heading home. The second is that there’s always a chance, even if it’s thinner than Kate Moss, that Woods might do the impossible and not just make the cut, but actually take the lead.
You can take everything he’s ever done — the Tiger Slam, the 13 major titles, the record-breaking major wins at Pebble Beach and Augusta National — wad them together, and they wouldn’t equal a win at Torrey Pines. Compare it to any victory in any sport by any legend and it still wouldn’t match it.
When Tiger was just getting started, his father, in what everyone saw as a fit of paternal hyperbole, said that his kid would be bigger than Jesus. It wasn’t original. John Lennon had said the same thing 30 years earlier about the Beatles. But it was bold beyond the limits of hubris. A golfer? Bigger than the founder of a religion that claims a billion adherents?
Turning water into wine would seem a parlor trick, like pulling a quarter out of a kid’s ear, compared to Woods winning the Open. We throw the word “miracle” around all too freely to describe unlikely endings in sports. David Tyree used it to describe that incredible catch he made in January to put the Giants in position to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. But that was one play by a guy who’d been practicing an entire season.
Kirk Gibson’s “miracle” home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series on a gimpy leg and his triumphant limping lap around the bases was a miracle. But that was one swing, one at-bat, one moment.
The 98-yard drive Denver engineered against Cleveland was another miracle, and as great as it was, it was one series of plays, one bit of magic that took place in less than two minutes.
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108th U.S. Open
At Torrey Pines South Golf Course (San Diego)