By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
7:44 AM EDT, July 19, 2012
I swore off 4:30 a.m. wakeup calls for the British Open two years ago, when Louie Oosthuizen introduced himself to the golfing world -- and me -- by winning at St. Andrews in a runaway. But back then, Tiger Woodswas in the midst of what seemed to be a never-ending free fall from the top.
It had been a tough year for Woods when he arrived at golf's birthplace in the summer of 2010. His image was shot after details emerged about his serial infidelity. His marriage was over. His then 34-year-old body seemed to be breaking down. His chase of Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships appeared finished.
A 5-under par 67 in the opening round at The Open Championship at the Old Course was simply a tease. He didn't come close to breaking 70 the rest of the week and he finished tied for 23rd, 16 shots behind Oosthuizen, who did a pretty fair imitation of Woods in a seven-shot win.
I wrote that Oosthuizen was a one-shot wonder, at least in majors.
I also wrote that I would never get up in the middle of the night to watch another sports event. At least that didn't include a soccer ball.
Oosthuizen nearly won this year's Masters, where he made a little history on Sunday with the first-ever televised double-eagle at Augusta National on the par-5 second hole and then came oh-so-close to putting on the green jacket before losing in a playoff to Bubba Watson.
And I got up this morning a little after 4 a.m. to watch the Open -- and Tiger.
He is one of the most compelling stories in sports, if not the most compelling. He came into Royal Lytham & St. Annes as the betting favorite, having won three tournaments this year, including the recent AT&T National at Congressional in Bethesda. He can jump from No. 4 in the world rankings back to No. 1 with a win this week as long as the three ahead of him -- Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy -- don't win themselves. (Full disclosure, I picked Westwood in today's paper.)
Two years ago, I never thought Woods would win another major, maybe not even another tournament, and I certainly didn't think he would become the best player on the planet again. Two months ago, after he barely made the cut at the Masters and missed the cut at Quail Hollow, he seemed a shell of the shell he was at the height of his comeback.
His five-shot win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March appeared to be a tease.
Then came the chip-in to help win the Memorial Tournament and tie tournament host Jack Nicklaus with 73 PGA Tour wins.
And then the final round comeback two-shot win at Congressional.
When he missed the cut the following week at the Greenbrier, I attributed it to the slow greens and Woods wanting to get home to Florida to start gearing up for England. But as the buildup began for the Open Championship, and Woods' opening round tee time of 4:42 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time was announced, I started thinking about my vow from two years ago.
Earlier this week, my editor asked if I planned to get up to watch Tiger.
"If nature calls," I said, though not exactly in those words.
"Too much information," he said, in exactly those words.
And here I am, on the first of many cups of coffee, with Tiger off to a good start. He hit his tee shot on the opening hole, a 205-yard par-3, to within 5 feet and made birdie. He made a 20-footer for birdie on the par-4 fourth to tie for the lead. Another birdie on the sixth hole gave him the outright lead.
I have thought about going back to bed, but I am hooked.
Tiger has brought me back to this early morning craziness.
I know I am not alone.
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