Monday, March 12, 2018

Tiger is back - & golf is must-see TV again

Yes, I know it was Selection Sunday.

I know that is a big thing - especially for those of us who from time to time don't mind having some money on the line when it comes to our sports events.

But it was not the sports event I was riveted to yesterday.

No, not Jake Arrieta either. Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm excited to see the Phillies add a serious top-of-the-rotation arm to their starting rotation.

It will certainly make for a more interesting summer on the deck with my trusty radio.

But that's still a month away.

Yesterday, my eyes were riveted on an old friend.

The red shirt is back. Tiger Woods was back on the leaderboard on Sunday afternoon.

Let me try to explain.

I love golf. It kind of consumes me. The funny thing is that the past couple years, as this insane job has become something of a 24-hour gig, I don't actually play that much.

There was a time - before the Internet, before Twitter, before Facebook, before we could deliver information 24 hours a day and could put the paper out from the surface of the moon - so long as we Internet access - that I was a regular once-a-week player.

Back then I was just happened to be off every Friday. And every Friday morning at dawn, I would try to be the first person out on the course. There really is nothing better than a muggy, warm summer morning, walking down the first fairway with nothing - and no one - in front of you but green.

I now look forward to the time when I can again devote that kind of time to golf. Hell, I'd just like a few hours away from my damn laptop and phone.

Today I'm more likely to bang out a quick bucket at the range than actually play 18. It's a time thing.

But I remain a certified golf nut.

That includes golf on TV.

Go ahead. Snicker if you want.

That's especially true in this winter stretch from the time the Super Bowl concludes (and we all had special reason to tune in this year, didn't we?), and the start of the baseball season.

Every Sunday afternoon you can usually catch me in front of the tube watching the early tournaments of the year, in California, Arizona and now the Florida swing.

Yes, all these guys look and play pretty much the same. They all hit it a million miles and can putt the lights out. When they do hit in the trees they always magically seem to have a path out, whereas I am much more likely to hit one solidly off the trunk of a tree trying to escape, only to see the ball career deeper into the woods.

Speaking of Woods, he's back. And that's another reason I was glued to the TV yesterday.

I've always been a Tiger Woods fan. In part because - back then - he did things and hit shots that no one else did, or would even attempt.

Tiger has had his share of issues. Dogged by some personal problems, and a series of injuries, he has not won in years.

But in recent weeks he has given notice that his career is not over, as many have predicted.

Yesterday, he started the day on the leaderboard, one shot off the lead.

It would also be where he finished.

No, he did not win the Valspar Championship.

Here's the deal. Golf on TV is usually just golf on TV.

But when Tiger is on the leaderboard on Sunday, golf becomes an event.

Don't believe it. Just check out the crowds that followed him this weekend in Florida. Listen to the roars as he drained a spectacular chip shot from the rough just off the green, or as he drained another long putt.

All of this is a buildup to the first major of the year.

All eyes will be on Tiger as he hunts another green jacket. I know I will. And I will be rooting for him.

But first he will try again for his first win since August 2013 at Bay Hill in Orlando. It's his home turf. He has won there eight times.

If he had won yesterday, it would have been his 80th win on the PGA Tour. Think about that for a minute. When he tees it up at Augusta, he will be seeking his 15th major as he chases Jack Nicklaus' record of 19.

It's been awhile since we've seen this Tiger.

As I said, golf is golf. I'll always be a fan.

But a Sunday with Tiger on the leaderboard. That's an event. And it's impossible not to look.

I hope Tiger wins this year. In fact, I hope he wins my favorite tournament of the year, the Masters. If he is on the leaderboard heading to Amen Corner, buckle your seat belts. This is bigger than sports.

As I said, this is an event.

Welcome back, Tiger.

You've been missed.


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