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Tiger Turns Pussy Cat

April 16, 2007
April 16, 2007

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April 16, 2007

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Tiger Turns Pussy Cat

LIFE PROMISES you a few things. Cary Grant's fly won't ever be unzipped. Dobermans won't ever go vegetarian. And Tiger Woods won't ever cough up the lead on a major Sunday.

This is an article from the April 16, 2007 issue Original Layout

Life lies.

On Sunday, in Augusta, Alaska, where the temperature never broke 70 and neither did most of the golfers, the spike-shoed god Eldrick Woods charged to the lead all by himself and then ... and then ... blew it?

"This feels weird," said Woods's agent, Mark Steinberg, standing around after the Masters wondering what to do with himself. "We should be waiting for him to finish out at the putting green [for the green jacket ceremony], with some vodka cranberries lined up and me calling the jet [to say there will be a delay]."

You tell me, before last week, when's the last time you saw Tiger...

... have the lead on Sunday in a major and not win? (Never—not once in his 12 major wins.)

... not emblazoned in his lucky Sunday red? (Never—but this time he didn't pack any red sweaters, not realizing Augusta would be colder than the smile on a DMV clerk, so he had to wear a black one over his red shirt.)

... not break par in any of his four rounds at Augusta? (Never—playing as a pro in the Masters.)

You kept wanting to duck under the ropes, walk up to him and say, "Sir, I need to see some I.D."

Woods was in the last group, wasn't he? The dozen other times he started a major in the final group, he ended up winning. Not this time.

He started the final round one shot behind and was tied for the lead on the 2nd tee, natch. He had the lead to himself by the 5th. This thing was as over as Menudo. Give Tiger a Sunday lead and he ain't givin' it back.

But this wasn't that Tiger Woods. He bogeyed 6 and then 10 and never sniffed the lead again. The winner—coming soon to a trivia contest near you—was somebody named Zach Johnson, who wound up stealing the tournament from two groups ahead.

Say it out loud: Zach Johnson came from behind to beat Tiger Woods out of a Masters. Sort of like: Lyle Lovett got Julia Roberts to marry him.

"Every giant's got to fall at some point, I guess," chirped the Bible-toting Johnson. "I feel like David."

I still want an inquiry. That couldn't have been the real Tiger Woods out there. Tiger makes every crucial putt. This guy was putting like an anvil salesman, missing crucial ones on 10, 12, 14 and 16. My Lord, on 12, he left his birdie try five feet short! I thought I'd see John Daly enter Harvard before I ever saw Tiger leave a big birdie putt short.

The real Woods has the luck of a Vegas altar boy. Not this heathen. On Friday, at the 13th tee, a bird distracted him, causing him to check his 130-mph swing six inches from the ball. "I felt like I broke my back, my wrist, my neck and my legs," he moaned. On Sunday, he actually did break something—his four-iron, after wrapping it around a tree on 11. Normally, Nike would've airlifted in a new one by 13, but no replacement ever came. See? Imposter!

The real Woods is golf's greatest finisher, right? This schmo kept limping home like a gut-shot moose, bogeying both 17 and 18 in rounds 1 and 3. "That's where I blew this tournament," the bogus bogeyer said afterward.

But if that was the real Tiger Woods, then we might have a new ball game on Tour. "It was kind of good to see him give it up a little, wasn't it?" said 10th-place finisher Vaughn Taylor. "It's good to know we have a little bit of a chance against him."

It wasn't so much good as bizarre, like Sunday at St. Peter's with no pope in the window. There was no Tida hug. No awkward Tiger-Phil hideous sport coat exchange. No that's-one-more-major-closer-to-Nicklaus graphic.

"It was bound to happen," said Justin Rose, who finished fifth. "You can't go an entire career and not give it up once in a while."

"He's human," confirmed seventh-place finisher Stuart Appleby, who was paired with Woods on Sunday. "He just doesn't act like it."

Hey, maybe it's for the best. There's been a lot of talk lately about how Tiger has gotten too powerful, how having a tour with only one whip-cracker and 124 galley slaves makes for too many junior-varsity tournaments and bored fans.

So maybe this is good.

I mean, even B.F. Skinner gave his rats some cheese now and then, right?

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On the 12th hole, Woods left his birdie try five feet short! I thought I'd see John Daly enter Harvard before I ever saw Tiger leave a big birdie putt short.

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