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After Marriage, Woods Gets Better

By Yong-yi Zhu

COLUMNIST

On October 4, 2004, under a sunset in Barbados, one of the most famous dropouts in Stanford history and perhaps the greatest golfer of our time lost his most eligible bachelor status.

To a lot of people, Tiger Woods getting married is like George W. Bush learning about Iraq: both events lead to disasters. They believe that Elin Nordegren is the equivalent of Babe Ruth: both people can introduce a curse that takes years to cure.

Think about it. Tiger and Elin met in 2001 at the British Open. A year later, “The Drought,” Tiger’s long stretch of no major wins, began. Perhaps Tiger took his focus off of his golf game. He said that he had other priorities in his life besides golf. Many critics were quick to jump on his back for that. (Don’t we all have family that we care about? Should each of us treat our careers before everything else?)

I believe that Tiger, like the Red Sox, has reversed his curse. By marrying Elin and making the long term commitment, Tiger can now focus on his golf game rather than worrying about his relationship with the model/au pair.

This marriage will bring stability to his life. He was distracted during these past three years. He had to worry about the courtship and whether or not this woman was the right one to marry. Just think, he proposed to Elin two days after the President’s Cup in 2003. Why do you think Tiger didn’t beat Ernie in the three playoff holes that determined the winner of the cup?

After that proposal, he still had a $1.5-$2 million dollar wedding to plan, complete with Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and a $57 million yacht.

But now, all of that is over and golf should be in the forefront again. I’m sure that Tiger remembers the last time he was in contention at a stroke play event; it was also the last time Tiger held the number one ranking. He lost the Deutsche Bank open to Vijay Singh and lost his one-time stranglehold as the top player in the world.

But now he is a whole different man. In his first tournament back from the honeymoon, Tiger made a huge statement to the golfing world: I am back and better than ever.

After opening with a two-over par 72 on Thursday afternoon at the Tour Championship, Woods bounced back with a 64 the next day and was within three shots of the lead. That was the low round of the day on Friday.

He then continued the surge to the top of the leaderboard on Saturday. Woods started the day with a bogey, but did not look back after that. The stretch from the eighth to the eleventh holes showed what the focused Tiger can do to a golf course. He made every putt he needed to make from all over each green.

When it turned into a two man show on Saturday, Tiger matched Retief Goosen swing for swing and putt for putt. It seemed like the day was going to turn into match play, but Goosen faded a bit at the end of the round, and Jay Haas came back to the top.

Sunday was another epic battle. Tiger bombed the ball off the tee. Even though he made some mistakes early on, he was able to make a birdie before the turn. He would eventually lose to Retief Goosen, but what was more important than winning or losing this tournament was the fact that his swing has excellent rhythm and tempo, and he is confident with the driver.

This was not a man looking to pull out the 3-wood at every excuse he had. Tiger drove the ball long so he could have a shorter and more controlled approach to the green. That put Tiger near the top in terms of greens in regulation.

His swing is back. His confidence is back. And now that Tiger is married, the question should no longer be about when the next major will come (because that’s obviously 2005 at Augusta) but about when his army of uber-beautiful golf-god children will grace the Earth.