Tiger Woods Returns to Golf: 2010 Masters Day 2 by mcline223

by Mark Cline

Thanks in large part to more difficult pin placements, Day 2 of the 2010 Masters proved to be far less feather friendly. Those players who were able to capture a birdie here and an eagle there–while limiting the number of 1951 Oscar winners on their scorecard–have set themselves up for a great chance to win the ugliest prize in all major sports.

With 36 holes yet to be played, nothing is written in stone. However, the top eight names on Augusta’s Leaderboard are all within 3 shots of each other, and every player in Saturday’s final four pairings has a legitimate chance to win. In case you actually had to work on Thursday and Friday, please allow me to catch you up on the major players in contention for the first Major of the decade.

T-1 Ian Poulter (-8) World Ranking #7
Poulter is a 34-year old right handed Englishmen whose loud mouth is only outdone by his outrageous fashion sense. Poulter has gotten somewhat of a bum rap here in the States because of such pontificating as “Don’t get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven’t played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.”

These remarks were made back in 2008 when he was new to fans in the Red, White and Blue, and up to that point he really had not done much in way of winning tournaments. Nevertheless, Poulter has continued to improve his game and collected his first PGA Tour victory on U.S. soil earlier this year by winning the Match Play Championship.

Poulter shot an opening round 4-under 68 on Thursday, and followed it up with another 4-under 68 on Friday. The outspoken Brit seemed to gain momentum on the back nine Friday with birdies at the 12th, 13th and 16th before dropping a shot with a bogey at the 18th. If you have trouble finding him tomorrow, just look for a spikey-haired guy in a ridiculous outfit.

T-1 Lee Westwood (-8) World Ranking #4
Westwood has a few things in common with Poulter other than the that he too is a loyal subject of the Queen Mother. Westwood–36-years old, right handed–has never won a Major event, but has come painfully close. In both the 2008 U.S. Open and the 2009 British Open, Lee fell just one putt short of taking part in the deciding playoff.

Not only will Westwood be able to pull from his aforementioned Major experiences, but both he and Poulter have been part of European Ryder Cup teams in the past. So the pressure that comes with Augusta may seem pedestrian to these two when compared to playing for the entire European Union.

Westwood came out like gangbusters on Friday by shooting 4-under on the opening seven holes. He added two more birdies at Amen Corner before a double bogey at the 14th brought him back to earth. Westwood finished his day by exchanging a birdie at the 16th for a final bogey at the 18th.

T-3 Tiger Woods (-6) World Ranking #1
Apparently, this guy is still pretty good. After months of speculation as to how exactly the world’s most recognizable athlete goes about “regaining America’s trust,” it seems Woods has found a pretty good answer. Contend.

In less than 48 hours since first pitting his golf club against his golf ball in sanctioned competition, Tiger Woods has blown the door of national acceptance right off its hinges. No matter the scandals off the course, now that Woods has a legitimate chance to win the Masters, his golf game is all we can talk about; its all we want to talk about.

This is America people. We love pulling for dysfunctional athletes, its what we do best. Case in point: Mike Tyson. At 20-years old, he was the youngest person to be Boxing’s Heavyweight Champion of the World, a legitimate phenom. He then went on to force his way with a beauty queen, profess to a reporter that he would violate him until he loved Mike, bit a grown man’s ear not once but twice and tattoo his face. Still, Mike Tyson got a standing ovation at this year’s Academy Awards because of a cameo where he sings some Phil Collins, and tries to collect his Tiger.

The more noise Woods makes on the course this weekend, the less noise we will hear about his night putting. After a 4-under opening round of 68, Tiger put up a very even keeled 2-under 70 on Friday. Tiger took what Augusta gave him today, never trying to force the tough shots. Woods did exactly what you need to do at the Masters, go birdie or better on the par 5s and don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar anywhere else.

Saturday is known as moving day in the golf world, and no one moves better than Woods when he is on. If he can get his putting game in check, we have a early candidate for comeback sportsmen of the year. One more quick note on Le Tigre, his 6-under par after two days of play at Augusta is the second lowest score he has ever had going into the weekend. Twice he has held a score of 8-under and once a score of 5-under. In all three previous instances, Tiger was getting fitted for a green jacket after 72 holes.

T-3 K.J. Choi (-6) World Ranking #43
For years, it was a shared belief that Choi would be the first Asian golfer to win a Major tournament. While he fell short of this achivement, the 39-year old right handed Korean is the most accomplished Asian born player the PGA has ever seen. K.J. will be right at home on Saturday playing in the same pairing as Tiger Woods since the two shared a tee time during the first two days of the Masters as well.

I don’t see Choi wearing green when all is said and done Sunday night, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he proved me wrong.

T-3 Anthony Kim (-6) World Ranking #14
Only 24-years of
age, many believe the right handed Kim is the next American superstar of golf. Kim has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his young career and seems to relish in the Majors spotlight. Also, for such a young player, he has big time tourney experience as a member of the 2008 winning U.S. Ryder Cup team.

By the way, Kim is coming off a first place finish in last week’s PGA event, the Shell Houston Open.

T-3 Ricky Barnes (-6) World Ranking #82
Considered another leading member of the PGA’s new school of golfers, the 29-year old right hander from California
still has everyone waiting for his breakthrough moment. Barnes first gained national recognition by winning the 2002 U.S. Amateur Open. Since then, he has had an up and down career which include a tie for second place at the 2009 U.S. Open, and a 21st place finish in the 2003 Masters, his best finish ever at Augusta.

Not that it makes any difference to his golf game, but Barnes is the son of former New England Patriots punter Bruce Barnes…so there’s that.

T-3 Phil Mickelson (-6) World Ranking #3
Besides Tiger Woods,
Mickelson is the only other former Masters winner this high on the leaderboard. The 39-year old right hander who plays lefty–thus the nickname Lefty–has won three of golf’s Majors, including two at Augusta. The 2004 and 2006 Green Jacket winner is always a fan favorite, but even more so due to the heavy heart he now plays with. Both Mickelson’s wife and mother were diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2009.

Mickelson’s chances to win this year’s Masters were slim to none in most experts eyes until a string of six birdies in last week’s Shell Houston Open breathed new life into his game. The entire golf world would like nothing more than a final pairing on Sunday of Lefty vs Lothario.

8 Y.E. Yang (-5) World Ranking #28
Yang has two separate claims to fame. The 38-year old right handed Korean took the honor of being the first Asian to ever win a PGA Major event when he won the 2009 PGA Tournament. Not only did he pull the carpet out from under K.J. Choi’s feet by winning the 09′ PGA, but he is the only player to ever defeat Tiger Woods in a Major where Woods had an outright lead at the start of play during the final round.

Again, I don’t see Yang pulling out a victory and pulling on a green jacket, but he is the only player ever to prove he can not only hang with Woods on a Major Sunday, but he can beat him.

Just some final housekeeping before we part. The old men who made such a fantastic run on Thursday–Fred Couples 50 and Tom Watson 60–are still sniffing around at 3-under par for the tournament. And Italian amateur Matteo Manassero became the youngest golfer to ever make the cut at Augusta. The 16-year old is from the Ian Poulter school of haberdashery and will open up play on Saturday morning at +3. I’ll be back on Saturday night to wrap up moving day, until then.


Tiger Woods Returns to Golf: 2010 Masters Day 1 by mcline223
April 9, 2010, 2:19 am
Filed under: Mark Cline, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

by Mark Cline

Man, it’s fun to watch Tiger Woods play golf.  With so much speculation as to which version of Tiger Woods would show up at Augusta National for the 2010 Masters, it was great to see the most exciting golfer ever back where he truly belongs, a golf course. T-Woo belongs on the cover of Sports Illustrated and self-glorifying video games, not US Weekly; and today he took his first 18 steps towards normalcy.

The crowd on hand clapped like normal, Woods displayed his ball-striking power like normal and we all cheered–whether secretly or out in the open–like normal. Really, the only part of Woods’ opening round on Thursday that was not normal was his score. Tiger shot a 4-under par 68, marking the first time he has had a sub 70 score after the first day in the 16-years he has competed at the Masters. Do you think Tiger is happy to be back on that good old Bermuda grass? Me too.

Forget all the story lines about Tiger being a changed man, a more humble man, possibly even a less exciting man. Now that he is back on the links, he is once again just a golfer, that’s how I see him anyway.

No longer will I have to hear about how he’s an evil marketing genius and company pitchman hellbent on taking honest folks money. No more talking heads giving their unqualified and unwanted two cents worth as to how Tiger can make this right with the “millions he betrayed.”

Sure these moronic stories will continue. But now that he is back, I can ignore them and evaluate Tiger Woods the only way I feel entitled to, as a golfer. Tiger Woods doesn’t need to apologize to me for any of his off the field indiscretions. The only reason any of it mattered to me as a sports fan was that it robbed the sport’s world of one of its greatest athletes. When Tiger crushed a ball 300-yards on his opening drive Thursday morning, all was forgiven in my eyes.

Perhaps people will think I am allowing Woods off too easily. However, he really didn’t do anything to me except put his golf game on the shelf for five months.

The truth is, America isn’t pissed that Tiger Woods was cheating on his wife. America is pissed that Tiger Woods got caught cheating on his wife.

No longer could they point to the upstanding, well-spoken and tattoo free Tiger Woods while telling their kids that this is what they should become. Now that Tiger has revealed he is human, these same people might actually have to lead future generations by being a good example themselves…heaven forbid I know. How can they allow the TV and internet to babysit their children if all they are going to read about is the sexual appetite of one of the world’s most successful human beings?

To think Tiger Woods is the exception rather than the rule in extramarital affairs when discussing professional athletes is to not know sports at all. We as a society–pardon the sweeping generalization–don’t expect more from pros, we expect they kept it to themselves. And with that, let us get to some golf.

By the time Tiger teed off on 460-yard par-4 ninth hole, he had established that it takes more than a five-month self-imposed layoff–due to biggest sex scandal since sex was deemed scandalous–to through him off his game. Up to that point, his scorecard held a handful of pars, one birdie, one bogey and an eagle. But the moment that it all sank in for me was his second shot from that same hole.

Yes, I was impressed with precision in which he hooked the shot around a stand of trees to saddle up 10 feet from the hole, but he is not the only golfer who can make that shot. What made me somewhat giddy was Tiger’s reaction to the shot himself. When he realized he wouldn’t be able to see the shot’s landing through the trees, he galloped like a thoroughbred some 20-yards to see it settle.

That was the answer to all the “what Tiger Woods will show up at Augusta” questions I was looking for. Caught up in the moment of doing what he loves most, Tiger couldn’t help but be the competitor he has always been.

When Woods came out of hiding, he said that he had reconnected with his Buddhist faith. No longer would his fist pumps be as egregious, nor his outbursts be so colorful. And, in front of the podiums, or on the back nine come Sunday he just may be more conscious and controlled. But, that quick sidestep betrayed all of his rehearsed PG celebrations we will see in the near future–and we will see them. It showed that in the heat of the moment, he is the same old Tiger that does care about how he plays, because that is what he has always done, and a Tiger never changes his stripes, right?

By the way, the 2010 Masters got off to a hell of a start on Thursday. Over 30 players finished the day with scores under par. And atop the leader board is a who’s who of professional golf. The leader after 18 holes is 50-year old Fred Couples–92′ Masters Champion. At 6-under par, Couples is alone at the top and is the oldest player to ever have the outright lead at Augusta at the end of a round.

If you didn’t get enough of Tom Watson flirting with a Major victory at last year’s British Open, fear not. The 60-year old Watson–77′ & 81′ Masters Champion–was tied for the clubhouse lead much of the day with a 5-under par performance. Add to the mix a 5-under from Phil Mickelson,–04′ & 06′ Masters Champion–K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang and Lee Westwood, while Ian Poulter and Anthony Kim are tied with Tiger at 4-under par, and you’ve got a good start to what could become a great tournament.

I’ll be back after tomorrow’s action to break down day 2 of the Masters, and  we might actually talk about some golf.