Marolt: Roaring again like Tiger taught us
As Tiger Woods strolled the green carpet that is the 18th fairway at Augusta National on Sunday in front of the biggest crowd following his every move over a decade, coddling the mental buffer of needing only an easy three-putt bogie to win his fifth Masters jacket, he was business as usual, like was back in his late 20s when he ruled our aspirations and every golf course on which he set foot. The old feelings were back.
We knew this, because they were our feelings, not his; the ones we felt when golf was interesting to almost everyone, not just dedicated duffers with calculated handicaps. We felt the game grow around us with every untraditional fist pump on the fringe of the green. We loved his intensity. We were envious of his athleticism. He looked like he could beat the crap out of any one of the bodyguards parting the crowds after every round on his way to the scorer’s table where he’d officially leave his mark on setting the mark. In those days, if you weren’t getting up the dough to buy and nerve to tell your significant other that you needed, not wanted, but needed a new $500 driver, you were out of touch with relevant culture.
This weekend, the decade of unalleviated back pain and parade of swing coaches was over. His eyes were more clear than crazy again. He no longer looked like an old man pressed flat by the obsession with the impossibility of becoming a Navy Seal. He was confident. He was bold. He was exactly the way we want to think we were 14 years ago.
Back then, when the kids were young and I was hanging onto a competitive streak more resilient to the aging process than muscle tone or joint flexibility, Tiger gave me license to be cocky and pump my fist at everything from a long drive on the practice range to a perfectly seared steak off my grill. I was fitter and faster. I was smugger and stronger. Watching him convinced me that I was almost as good as ever at everything. That was his sway. That is why Nike made him their human swoosh.
It was like when Tiger fell, we roared no more. The fist pump became as cliche as male ponytails and black turtlenecks — it’s only use to substitute for the handshake during flu season. Of course we found things other than golf to do and new idols to emulate, and we may have even delighted a little to see a big man brought to the ground by what was a bad mix of his arrogance, stupidity and a lost youth that was sealed in a genie’s bottle by his overbearing father until one day it got rubbed the wrong way, exploded and unleashed a devil instead.
And then Sunday happened. After watching Tiger’s impossible finish, a long lost feeling reintroduced itself and I knew, this time, it would not hang around forever. Despite the gray skies, ignoring the horrific snow conditions glazed by an unseasonable cold front and defying the odds against the day becoming a great one, I grabbed my skis and headed for the slopes.
As I drove to town blaring popular music we listened to on family road trips, I imagined rejuvenated strength entering my body, if not my mind. Riding the lift over the slopes deserted for lack of civilized skiing, I imagined the narrow fairways and fast greens at Augusta that Tiger had just manipulated like their designer.
The first run proved more difficult than it looked, and it looked like a fairway bunker after a herd of elk trampled through. It had the consistency of a concrete driveway poured in a tornado during an earthquake.
I got serious. I got focused. I got myself balanced and breathed deeply, steadily and defiantly. I got down it in one piece. It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty darn satisfying. My heart was racing and the fire stoked.
I headed to the nastiest runs on Aspen Mountain. Since the conditions were going to be miserable everywhere, I might as well take the misery on runs were it would be worthy of the effort they were requiring. I was Tiger on the comeback. I was as good as ever. I was up for the challenge and the cogs had no reverse gear. At the end of the day I felt like I’d played 18 of regulation and then six more in a sudden death playoff. I’d hit out of every woods, swamp, and trap on the course. I’d taken some gambles and they all paid off.
I was long off the tees and efficient on the greens. When I got home, I slipped on the winners’ prize — my lambs wool blue slippers — and relished the magic of the day.
Roger Marolt was considering getting back into golf, then decided to wait and see how Tiger does at The British. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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