By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Like much of the sporting world I was riveted yesterday afternoon to the spectacular performances on the golf course in Augusta, Ga.
On any other day, the bravura rounds by aged Tom Watson and aging Freddy Couples would command the headlines, or the one-stroke-back performance of Phil Mickelson, who is battling the distractions of his wife's breast cancer.
But, due to certain circumstances that most of us have heard about, yesterday's opening round was dominated by the performance of one Tiger Woods, who shot a 68 that might have been a 65, hit one or two of those astonishing recovery shots that he apparently can still summon, and is two strokes off the lead.
Important statistic: for all the rust from his five-month lay-off from the game, this was the lowest opening round that Tiger ever shot at Augusta. He never shoots in the 60s on opening day. Golfers beware.
I still don't think he can win. I have to believe that, at some point, the six-foot putts for par that make Masters champions will start sliding by the hole for Woods with alarming frequency, as even his preternatural control shows cracks.
But it was great for golf to have him back. And there were a few signs (amid the usual bad-shot tantrums) that he may actually have learned something in the last few months. On 14, some debris from the wind-blown pines diverted a nifty chip shot that was heading toward the cup. He smiled and picked up the culprit twig and tossed it away, and joked with the gallery about his misfortune. Huh!? Tiger almost never jokes with his fans; he usually parades around the course with a concentration bordering on contempt.
I will leave it to David Feherty, the ace golf commentator, to sum up Tiger's day, and maybe Tiger's future. After watching Woods hit one magnificent shot Feherty, marveling, called Tiger, "a creature in its element."
The creature returns to its element this morning. The story continues. By Monday I may be eating crow.