JEFF: Is It In You?
By Jeff Falconio
After 36 holes of championship play at the Masters, it's pretty clear that the Gatorade slogan doesn't quite fit Tiger Woods. Has Augusta National finally tamed Tiger? Woods flirted with the cut line Friday before rebounding on the last six holes. Now Dan O'Donnell, who uses tigerwoodsfan#1 as his internet chat name, will tell you that no lead is safe when Tiger plays the final 36 holes. But it's different this time around for Woods.
To begin with, he doesn't dominating the course like he used to. From 1997 to 2002 the Masters was Tiger's domain. He'd go out and effortlessly distance himself from the field. That's no longer the case. Tiger needed sudden death to win the 2005 Masters and despite lingering around in '06 and '07, Tiger couldn't put it away like he used to. In fact, Tiger hasn't done much at Augusta lately. Once again yesterday he failed to shoot under 70. So is it conceivable to think Tiger can erase a seven stroke deficit? Saturday is a pressure cooker at Augusta, especially on the back nine when thoughts start to turn to Sunday pairings.
That being said, Trevor Immelman will likely feel the heat. Even the most cynical of Tiger observers like myself would believe that a Woods-Immelman final Sunday pairing would mean automatic victory for Tiger. But Woods has more than Immelman to overtake. Retief Goosen is up there. So is Mike Weir. Even as I type this, defending champion Zach Johnson is tearing up the front nine and making an early charge. And of course the biggest challenger is Phil Mickelson who put a 68 up on the board yesterday. Another 68 by Phil will end Tiger's chances. I've never argued the fact that Tiger is the best player on the tour. Even though Tiger comes off as superhuman, he is mortal, just like the rest of us. Sometimes deficits are too large to overcome, even for the best in the world.