Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tiger the Tease

Tiger is a terrible tease. Once again he's tantalizing us with a spurt of great golf. Woods put on a show in the final round of the Honda Classic last weekend that had fans and media wailing. "Tiger is back, Tiger is back!"

Not so fast. He's lured us down that path before, and it's a dead end.

But he can be convincing--for a round anyway. For the first three Honda rounds he was the B-minus golfer we've been used to since Thanksgiving, 2009, wobbling into the final round nine strokes behind Rory McIlroy. It looked like he'd be lucky to finish in the Top 10.

But suddenly it was like the good old days. Tiger went on a tear, a dazzling eagle-birdie binge, breathing down McIlroy's neck, at one point just a stroke away. Eventually Tiger was tamed, finishing two strokes behind winner McIlroy, in a tie for second with Tom Gillis. Tiger's 62 was his finest final round score ever. His second place finish was his best since he won the Australian Masters in 2009, back when he was the world's top golfer.

TV ratings were up on Sunday as fans tuned in to savor Tiger's surge. No doubt there will be a huge TV audience watching this weekend when Tiger tees off in Doral, Fla., at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. The tournament will be teeming with top golfers, including McIlroy, who climbed to the No. 1 spot in the PGA rankings. Sure, there's interest in McIlroy, who's the second youngest, after Tiger, of course, to reach No. 1. But McIlroy is blah, blessed with none of Tiger's spice. McIlroy doesn't attract a big TV audience but Tiger is still a draw--golf's lone draw actually--especially after he's done decently in a tournament. What's more, he continues to be a magnet for those who don't even like golf.

When Tiger has a good day, us cynics wonder if he's back on the prowl, chasing women like he did when he was the king of golf. When he was married, all that lying and cheating apparently was good for his game. But after he was caught and his marriage dissolved, his game went down the drain. Possibly a return to raunch might elevate his game. He claims he's being a good boy these days, but maybe that 62 on Sunday signals a return to the bad-boy Tiger. We'll see.

What going to happen in Doral? Tiger will probably disappoint, as he usually does these days, remaining a shadow of himself, complete with uncertain swing and shoddy putting.

Whatever he does, we can't stop watching. If he beats the odds and becomes consistently first-rate again, millions of us don't want to miss a moment.

No question. Tiger the Tease is at it again. He's got us back in his grip.