On December 13, 2009, only a couple of weeks after thanksgiving’s revelations and at a time when most everyone else was counting him out, this space could not fathom Tiger’s role in this years Masters would be limited to clutching a TV remote.
With that prediction safely in the books, perhaps I can afford to go perch myself on yet another limb with what I believe are three must conditions in order for Tiger to secure a Masters victory this year at Augusta.
First, Tiger has to be physically and mentally game ready. I am quite certain that notwithstanding his off-course ordeal, Tiger has sufficiently kept himself in necessary good physical condition including more recently the playing and non-playing practice needed to have his swing and putting where it needs to be. By some account of the practice rounds others have played with him, Tiger’s game is as physically and mentally “game ready” as at any time in the past, or better. I believe it.
Frankly, not having to worry about keeping at bay the other 14 or so holes Tiger was, at any given time, playing in another dimension, should contribute to better physical and mental play.
Second, after Tiger carries out his very public 2:00 pm press conference on Monday, April 5, he needs to shut everything down. By everything, I mean everything. Not another interview until it’s over and the only three people he should talk to are, in this order, Steve Williams, Hank Hainey, and himself. Possibly too, Elin, but only under the right circumstances.
Tiger’s conscious and unconscious mind need to be in unison and in a trans-like focus where nothing can distract. A bomb could go off in the middle of his backswing or “patrons” could utter whatever tired or new punchlines they like, Joslyn James could carry out her rumoured threat to figuratively streak naked across Hogan’s bridge, and Tiger has to be completely oblivious to it all. Tiger should wake up Monday morning after the Masters and, if necessary, only then learn about any of the other stuff that may have happened and which might have served to put him off his game and the single task at hand, winning.
This is about more than just being motivated, ready, and focused. It’s about being in a meditative or hypnotic trans for 4 days straight, completely uninterrupted and at peace with yourself. Anything that Tiger lets pierce that protective bubble puts winning at risk.
Third, the usual dose of good luck with respect to weather, wind, bounces and roll that is required to win any tournament, let alone the Masters, has to go Tiger’s way. As the commercials say, these guys are good, but from several hundred yards they are in control of a result that is within feet, not inches. And within those uncontrollable inches there are still bounces and rolls that can go one way or the other that only the golf-gods can choose to play with at their good humour and discretion. Some call it good or bad karma to be thanked or cursed. Regardless, this is the third condition over which Tiger, nor any player, has much or any control, but it’s a condition which must be met as successfully as the first two.
Others will think the opposite or disagree with the conditions and strategy I have set out. Some will think Tiger needs to be loose, cajoling, flapping about, and visibly paying homage to his surroundings, the media, and to his daemons. Essentially prescribing that Tiger be something he hasn’t ever been before. They are wrong of course and only prove they don’t understand the game, Tiger, or the living hell from which he is trying to reincarnate.
Tiger has absolute control over 2 of 3 conditions. He can get himself physically game ready and I think Tiger is one of two people I know who can, when he really needs to, completely turn off all outside and inside distraction. However, Tiger can’t control the luck of the occasional good or bad roll. At Augusta, where wind and undulation are uniquely your worst or best friend, luck is often what makes the difference.
Do I believe Tiger will succeed? Let me answer this way; if all three conditions are met, he can’t lose.
One last prediction…
If on Sunday Tiger is in the hunt – and he will be – then Elin will be there. Note, this is not one of the three conditions.