AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods apologized. Sort of.
He behaved better. Sort of.
None of it made much difference.
The peace of mind Woods used to know every time he stepped on a golf course is gone, if not for good, then certainly for the rest of this Masters. He will never get that back, at least not completely. Its like Superman finding out kryptonite followed him to a new planet. Woods is never going to be worry-free again.
Dozens of times, for more than two years running, Woods kept saying how close he is to putting it all together. He said it four more times in the span of four minutes after his round Saturday. A win at Bay Hill two weeks ago – his first in 30 months – suggested Woods finally might be. His play this week said the opposite. His spoiled-child routine a day earlier – a kicked club, a few mock swings in anger, a handful of curses – suggested he knew that, too.
Am I conscious of it? No. Certainly Im frustrated at times, Woods said after shooting even-par 72, three strokes better than his round Friday – with only one slammed club.
I apologize if I offend anybody by that, but Ive hit some bad shots. Its certainly frustrating at times not to hit the ball where you need to hit it. I certainly heard that people didnt like me kicking the club.
But I didnt like it, either. I hit it right in the bunker. Didnt feel good on my toe, either.
A person close to Augusta National operations said no one from the tournament had talked to Woods about his behavior in the second round, but Woods is subject to discipline by the PGA Tour.
Tour policy states that players can be disciplined for conduct unbecoming a professional even at tournaments that are co-sponsored or approved by the PGA Tour, such as the major championships. The tour doesnt comment on discipline, however, so whether hes fined might never be known.
Grace was never Woods strongest suit. Ambition was, and the gulf between what he wants and what he has to settle for has likely never been wider. When he returned to golf at the Masters in 2010, a few months after a post-Thanksgiving slalom down the driveway of his Florida mansion, he vowed to respect the game. Back then, Woods had no idea it was going to be this hard.
All this club dropping all the time, he seems disgusted, said Hank Haney, his former coach, whose recent book The Big Miss has kicked up a stir.
Im not there watching his shots, and he did some of that when I had him. But it seems to me hes doing it a lot more now. Still, the notion that he should just go out and play, or have fun, or somehow just play like he used to, is nonsense. I hear people say it all the time, in things I read, or on TV, and its just total nonsense.
Hes always been mechanical. He was always thinking about his swing, about his short game, about one adjustment or another he was convinced would make a difference. With a lot of touring pros, its a defensive mechanism. They cant let too many doubts creep in. But theres a big difference between a textbook swing and one you can take to the golf course.
And for some reason, he cant make that transfer. ... The strange thing is that before this tournament, he was on a run of pretty good results. Hes still going to win a lot of tournaments, but probably not as many as he used to.
Woods is at 3 over, 12 shots off the lead, further behind than hes ever been at the Masters. Late into the night Friday, using a spotlight provided by the club, Woods went to the practice range and pounded shot after shot into the darkness.
Despite the extra work, less than 24 hours later, Woods found himself another four strokes in arrears. Asked whether another practice session was on his schedule, Woods replied, Im a little tired. Last night took a little bit out of me and certainly (so did) trying to put everything I possibly had into this round to get it back. Im going to go back and go lift, work out and get ready for tomorrow.
Someone asked Woods what he would need today to get back into the tournament, recalling that just a few weeks ago, when the arrow on his game was pointing up, he shot a 62 in the final round of the Honda Classic to finish in a tie for second.
That would be nice, Woods said, almost wistfully. I dont know. I dont know what the score is going to be because its going to be dependent, obviously, on what these guys do today. If somebody shoots 4- or 5-under par and theyre up there in the lead, its going to be tough to go get em. But anything can happen. Thats the thing.
You can be 4, 5, 6 back going into the back nine and still win the golf tournament. Anything, can happen.