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It's never going to be the same

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  April 7, 2010 04:19 PM

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger ...

The Rest of Tiger's Golfing Life begins at 1:42 EDT tomorrow afternoon at Augusta National Golf Club. 

I'm just plain curious. Aren't we all?

Whereas once I was certain that breaking the Jack Nicklaus record of 18 majors was a mortal lock, now I'm only fairly confident Woods will do so.

How can he be the same person he was before the events of November 27? There has to be some uncertainty. Who knows what thoughts will be in his head when he puts that tee in the ground for the first time in serious competition since last fall? 

And what about the competition? Won't they sense a vulnerability that never before existed?

There were already signs of mortality last year (e.g. losing head-to-head to Y.E. Yang in the PGA). 

I believe he faces a new set of formidable competitors. The group directly behind him, which I liked to call the Charles Howell Generation, failed to challenge Tiger. But now we have a feisty new bunch headed by such interesting young golfers as Rory McIlroy (turns 21 in May) and Ryo Ishikawa (turns 19 in September), plus the slightly older Dustin Johnson (25 in June) and Anthony Kim (25 in June), a group that is both talented and fearless. I don't think any of them are afraid of Tiger. Laying in the wings is 16-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, who I am told is as good or better as Tiger at the same age. 

I just don't think it's ever going to be the same for him again.   

I can see him making the cut. I could possibly see him cracking the Top 10. I can't see him winning the 2010 Masters. If he does, we will have a leader in the clubhouse for the sports story of 2010. 

And then you can discount all the above.  

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Bob is an award-winning columnist for the Globe and the host of "Globe 10.0" on Boston.com.

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