Beware: The Woods swagger is back

Tiger Woods reacts after birdieing the 16th hole Saturday at the U.S. Open.

Tiger Woods reacts after birdieing the 16th hole Saturday at the U.S. Open.

They may be teeing off in Hartford already but I’m still stuck thinking about Tiger and Pebble. 

All I keep hearing and reading is how Tiger Woods has lost his swagger. Tiger Woods is ordinary. Tiger Woods is done.

Head writer and executive producer of the David Letterman Show, Eric Stangel, captured the sentiment best in this clever Twitter post: “Feels like Tiger Woods is being played by a different actor now & it’s not as good. Like when Timothy Dalton played Bond.”

That reflected the feelings of many, and while Tiger’s driving has bordered on dreadful, I’m less concerned about it than his putting. He can still scramble for par from off the reservation as he did Sunday on No. 3 at Pebble. But he can only blame bumpy greens for so long. This is a bad trend. His putter let him down at last year’s PGA when he blew a lead to Y.E. Yang, when he missed on the 72nd hole to tie at The Barclays, and at the last few Masters.

All that said, Tiger’s back-nine performance on Saturday was all I needed to see that school may be in session again soon. First there was the fist pump. Then there was the look. You remember the look? It is best described by golf photographer Jules Alexander in his book, “Tiger Woods: In Black & White.”

“I look at Tiger through the viewfinder and I see the same look I saw on Hogan’s face,” Alexander says. “I see the same look on Itzhak Perlman when he plays violin, and on [Rudolph] Nureyev when he dances. Great athletes have the look. It’s ‘I’m the best. I want to win.’ They’re doing something at such a high level and it’s so easy for them that there’s no need to strain. There’s something beautiful about it to the camera.”

Through my lens, there was something beautiful about seeing the swagger back. That was no Tiger imposter out there. It was good to see that look again, even if for just a few fleeting holes on Saturday.

We may see a lot more of it again soon.

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