Masters: Tiger’s back, Sergio’s shocked
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Art Spander in Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods, articles, golf - Masters

By Art Spander

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Just one of those things. A song title from Cole Porter about a flamed-out romance. An observation from Sergio Garcia about a round of golf so painfully flamed out — he is the defending champion, is he not? — it almost made us forget about the over-hyped return to the Masters of Tiger Woods.

Almost.

You were aware, certainly, that Mr. Woods, after an absence of three years, is once more in the Masters, literally if not exactly after an opening round 1-over-par 73 Thursday, back in contention — although as he resolutely reminded, “it’s a bunched leader board.”

Is it fair to say that seven shots behind this era’s Tiger, young Jordan Spieth, and in a tie for 29th Tiger is not exactly in the bunch?

No matter. With 54 holes remaining at a tournament he has won four times, and the first major of the year, we can say anything — and Woods can disprove anything and everything.

Except that he failed to take advantage of the par-fives, the holes that in his glory years were responsible for his success because of repetitive birdies. He had nothing but pars on those four holes Thursday.

Garcia could only wish that had been his situation. Alas, on the 15th, the 530-yard hole so many of those at or near the top did birdie — Spieth, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, and Rory McIlroy — Garcia made 13.

That was eight over par. That matched the highest score ever on any single hole in any Masters, and this is the 82nd.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Sergio told us. He knocked five balls into the pond in front of the 15th green, the last four hitting the green and then trickling back down a very slippery slope.

“It was just one of those things,” he said. “It’s the first time in my career where I make a 13 without missing a shot.”

Tom Weiskopf made a 13 on the par-3 12th in 1980 (five balls into Rae’s Creek). Tommy Nakajima made a 13 on the par-5 13th (balls behind trees, into Rae’s Creek). When someone that day asked Nakajima if he lost confidence, he responded, “No, I lose count.”

What counted for many was Tiger’s presence.

Sure, he hadn’t played a Masters since 2015. Sure, he holds the Masters scoring record. Sure, there seemed to be more anticipation and excitement for this 2018 Masters than for others of late. But how much publicity is too much?

Tiger was mentioned in 130 pre-tournament interviews with players other than Tiger.

ESPN, televising the Thursday and Friday rounds, had a Masters preview Wednesday night that mentioned only Tiger’s chances.

It was as if he was the lone golfer entered.

But, we learned quickly enough, there was Sergio, who would shoot a 9-over 81 (which isn’t bad when you go 8-over on one hole) and there was Jordan, the 2015 winner, who shot a 6-under 66.

What we learned about Tiger, in his return, is that despite the scandal of ’09, he’s still wildly popular — “The people were incredible,” he said of the boisterous galleries — and he’s still wild with some of his shots.

“I hit it better than I scored,” was the Woods analysis, a frequent explanation. He had five bogies and four birdies, two of the birdies at 14 and 16, neither of which is an easy hole.

He saw a reason to be satisfied, even if over par.

“Seventy-three is fine,” said Woods. It is? While over the years Tiger has started slowly at Augusta, he’s now 42 years old and hasn’t won a Masters since 2005.

And yet, he was back.

“Yes, I played in a major championship again,’” Woods said, “but also the fact I was — I got my myself back in the tournament, and I could have easily let it slip away. And I fought hard to get back in there, and I’m back in this championship. There’s a lot of holes to be played.”

Indeed, but the issue is how will he play them?

One bad swing or bad break and, well, as Sergio knows too well, one of those things can happen all too quickly.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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