More ink has been spent on the trials and tribulations of the World's #3 (doesn't that just sound strange?) in the last 15 months than on all other golf stories combined since Tiger took that ill-fated journey down his driveway on Thanksgiving night 2009. But armed with a new coach, a new swing (again) and a new outlook, Tiger has posted two solid rounds of 69 to get his 2011 season underway. He has looked much better in these first two rounds than he did almost all of last season, and if you include Tiger's performance in his last appearance of 2010 at the Chevron World Challenge (where he played well but gave up a final round lead to allow Graeme McDowell to beat him in a playoff), there is a buzz beginning to build that Tiger could be poised for an epic comeback.
Sure, its only a couple rounds, and he did have some flashes of his old brilliance last season (see his third round 66 at the U.S. Open), and it is own two courses that he really owns (really, they could rename the course Tiger Pines), but the last couple of days just feels different. He seems a little more relaxed on the course (and I mean little, but with Tiger it is all relative) and he even managed a couple of smiles. But after slogging through such a difficult year last year both on and off the course, he may have finally been able to put those distractions behind him to focus on this season and prepare for his assault on Jack's major record. Tiger was at his peak when his focus was absolute. He had a superhuman ability to shut out everything going on around him -- the crowd, the pressure, the media glare -- and just make one great golf shot after another. But last year, it was simply not possible for him to keep the distractions from creeping into his mind while he was on the course. And as all of us know, thinking too much on the golf course is an 8 waiting to happen.
So what would be a good year for Tiger? In his mind, any year that doesn't include a major is a disappointment. I think that he is poised for a great comeback this year, with at least three wins, one of them being a major. The Masters is probably his best shot this season. I am pulling for him. He is certainly one of the greatest players to ever live and when he is on his game, it is a thing of beauty and alot of fun to watch. Golf is better when Tiger is in the picture. Sundays are more exciting when his name is on the first page of the leaderboard. So hopefully the biggest Tiger story we hear this year comes from inside the ropes, not outside them.