Try to make the Masters about someone else. Maybe Ian Poulter, because the Englishman wore brilliant pink pants on Friday, and he believes they would go wonderfully with a green jacket. Or Poulter’s countryman Lee Westwood, ranked fourth in the world and capable of winning multiple majors, though he has not a one. Even Phil Mickelson would make a fine choice, because he is here with little fanfare as his wife tries to overcome breast cancer at home.
But Tiger Woods is here, and behind the leaders. Poulter and Westwood share the lead at 8-under par, and they spoke eagerly about their chances.
“A good start,” Poulter said. Woods, who turned in a 70 on Friday that put him at 6 under at the midway point, knows how to finish. Headed into Masters weekend, the fact he took nearly five months off and went through a personal hell seems not to matter. “I feel very comfortable,” Woods said.
Thus, the rest of the leaderboard might feel decidedly not. Consider this: Woods has been in as good or better position at the midway point of the Masters precisely three times: 1997, when he led; 2001, when he trailed only Chris DiMarco; and 2005, when he trailed DiMarco and Thomas Bjorn and sat tied for third. Each time, he had the lead to himself by Saturday night. And in each case, he won.
Why, even with all that has transpired since his car accident, couldn’t it happen now?
The way Woods has handled himself has allowed the focus to remain on golf. There has not been a single incident on the course, and Woods has helped himself with manners. Just off the fifth tee, as throngs offered their support, Woods, walking alone, turned to a couple of fans and said, “Thank you.” Then he simply sang a quiet little song “Dee-dee-dee” as he walked on.
Orchestrated or not, such interactions have served to ease Woods’ return. When he finished his round and came to the media center, he answered 17 questions, not a single one of them regarding anything other than his golf game.
In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post. For additional content please visit www. washingtonpost.com