Betting on the ghost of Tiger

This week marks 10 years since perhaps the single greatest highlight of Tiger Woods’ career.  I can still remember, as a young TV sports anchor, jumping up from my desk and yelling out to an empty newsroom when Tiger chipped in on 16 at the 2005 Masters.

From a television standpoint, it might be the most perfect highlight of all time.  Verne Lundquist knew, as the ball stalled on the edge of the cup, that anything other than silence would ruin the moment. The director also had enough sense not to cut away from the teetering ball to get Tiger’s reaction.  The ball itself seemed to milk its moment on the lip. It was perfect.

Tiger went on to win the tournament — his last Masters victory.

Back then, nobody could have imagined Tiger would go 10 years without winning at Augusta National.  Jack Nicklaus once said he expected Woods would win 10 green jackets.  That ain’t happening.

As Tiger returns to Augusta, it’s almost as if his game, or at least the last we saw of it, is mocking him.  Tiger’s single greatest highlight came on a chip shot.  Now he’s doing stuff like this:

Back in 2005, people used to ask, “Tiger or the field?” The entire golfing world had to wonder if anybody could beat him.  Fans didn’t think anyone could.  His competitors knew they couldn’t.

But here were are.  It’s 2015 and times have changed.  Woods hasn’t won a major in almost 8 years.  He hasn’t finished a tournament this season.  Las Vegas sports books are giving 20/1 odds on Tiger to win this week — the same as FedEx Cup points leader Jimmy Walker and better than guys like Matt Kuchar, Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson. The fact Tiger’s not 200/1 says a lot about how brilliant he’s been and how badly we (golf fans) want him to return to something that even slightly resembles that brilliance.

We Don’t Need Another Bo Jackson

If you’re old enough to have seen Bo Jackson at the height of his powers, you’re old enough to feel genuine regret over the fact we’ll never know what he could have done.  Tiger’s career is starting to feel a little Bo Jacksony.  14 majors is unfathomable for most players, but for some reason we feel cheated by Tiger’s 14.

Personally, I hate the idea of one day trying  to explain to my son or daughter just how good this Tiger Woods guy was. For Tiger, more than any athlete with the exception of a young Mike Tyson, victory was a foregone conclusion.  If he did find himself in a tight spot, everybody knew what was going to happen.

I’m already annoyed because I know my future kid will see the videos of Tiger.  They’ll know he was good.  But unless you were there to witness it, you could never fully understand how guys just started falling off the leaderboard when he made a few birdies.

Nobody is afraid of Tiger anymore.  The odds are against him this week at Augusta National.   The odds on him are terrible.  But I’m going to do it.  I’m betting on Tiger Woods. Hope is the foundation of all bad bets.  There has also never been a comeback without it.

UPDATE:  Tiger getting 12/1 as of Wednesday afternoon.


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