|Comments from the multi-hued Ian Poulter before today's first round of the Masters were strikingly similar to Ames' when he said that Woods would finish outside the top five this week at Augusta. (REUTERS)
Remember the days when there was reason for players to fear a curt response from Tiger Woods?
There was the 2006 incident when Stephen Ames was asked about playing Woods in the Accenture Match Play and Ames responded that "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball."
Ames wasn't out of line because Woods was spraying the ball at the time, but that didn't stop a snarling Tiger from using it as ammunition and dusting Ames 9-and-8. Asked afterwards what his response to Ames' comment was, Woods replied "9-and-8."
Comments from the multi-hued Ian Poulter before today's first round of the Masters were strikingly similar to Ames' when he said that Woods would finish outside the top five this week at Augusta. Like Ames, Poulter was being analytical, citing inconsistent shots by Woods at Doral.
"Well, Poulter is always right, isn't he?" Woods said.
He isn't wrong either, just as Ames wasn't wrong. The difference is that Tiger was capable of using Ames' words as fuel to lay the smack-down on him, but these days, such responses seem more petulant than intimidating, given Woods' fall from his usual pedestal.
There are two ways of looking at Woods' response. He might truly feel that he has his mojo back, but more than likely, he can't accept that, for now, he's a mere mortal.
As it was against Ames, his only legitimate response will not be verbal, but what he does at Augusta. Nothing says bite me better than a green jacket.
At one time, Woods seemed destined to beat Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships and the Golden Bear still thinks it's possible, but it won't be easy. Nicklaus put it all in perspective. "If you look at what he's got to do, he's still got to win five more, and that's more than a career for anybody else playing," said Nicklaus. By comparison, Phil Mickelson, arguably Tiger's main rival over the years, is going for his fifth major this week after 21 years of trying ...Canadian Sean Foley said recently that swing changes he is making with Woods are not major, but Tiger tells a different story. "We've changed a lot; from stance to grip to where the club is, where he believes the club needs to be throughout the entire golf swing and obviously, what the body is doing. That's way different than what I'm used to and that's been a difficult change. The grip part I got pretty quickly. The posture I got pretty quickly. The other stuff has been more difficult," said Woods, adding he's glad Foley is around...Woods tees off at 10:41 a.m. today and 1:48 tomorrow with U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell and Robert Allenby, which will bring back some bad memories. It was McDowell who spoiled a possible turnaround victory for Woods in last year's Chevron World Challenge. A four-shot lead evaporated for Woods, who still appeared to have victory locked up to end his tumultuous 2010 season on a high note, but he couldn't close the deal when McDowell sunk a 20-foot birdie putt on 18 to force a playoff in which he sunk a 25-footer for birdie.
RULES, RULES, RULES
D.A. Points was asked to slow down when he jogged back to the putting green due to a rule against running at Augusta. That rule may be focused on orderly conduct or, given the ages of many Augusta members, it may be for budget reasons with all of the defibrillators that would be required if they did run...Is it any wonder why golf doesn't resonate with many youngsters after Rickie Fowler, 22, turned his trademark flat-billed cap backwards, but was asked to return it to the traditional way of wearing a cap? Who better to take fashion tips from than the styling guys at Augusta? However, Augusta chairman Billy Payne says the tournament is reaching out to youngsters through digital technology and a recent venture into video games, among other things. The next question is how do you get them off the couch and to the golf course? Playing fashion police won't do it.
It is deservedly considered one of the greatest moments in the history of the Masters, which is being played for the 75th time this week. The 25th anniversary of Nicklaus winning his sixth green jacket in 1986 at the age of 46 might have more impact if we didn't hear incessantly about it year after year, even when it isn't Masters week...With all the Europeans in the top 10 of the world rankings, perhaps a more relevant anniversary is Gary Player's victory 50 years ago when he became the Masters' first international champion. Having said that, wouldn't a conclusion that saw Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa win be grand after the devastation in his country? That's my choice because nobody knows what they're talking about when picking winners in golf anyway...Got to love the confidence of Player, who still stays in peak condition. "I'm 75 now and I could beat 80% of young boys off the street in a fitness contest today," he said. No defibrillator required for the Black Knight. Maybe, he can pass along some confidence to Woods or Canadian Mike Weir, who tees off at 9:35 a.m. today and 12:53 p.m. tomorrow with Hiroyuki Fujita and Retief Goosen.