Bamberger: Once More, With Feeling

From Michael Bamberger's Sports Illustrated game story on the Open Championship:

But links golf has always been about iron play -- and wind. By Tiger's count, he missed only three iron shots all week. O.K., the wind was very meager, not a totally thorough test. Still, in an era when the long iron is practically dead, Woods showed his long-iron play is alive and well. He controlled his distances by controlling the trajectory. The excellence of his strikes was announced by the clouds of dirt and grass kicked up by his clubhead.

Will he get to 19 professional majors, one past Nicklaus's record total and Woods's holy grail? It'll be hard. One a year from 2007 through 2014, when he'll be 38, would do it, but that's a huge task. Yes, golfers these days are competitive beyond 40. Tom Watson and Fred Funk, combined age 106, made the cut last week. But Woods has been playing on the big stage for 15 years already. For any pro to play at the top of his game for a decade is substantial. With all that he has accomplished, it's daunting to think he has nearly a decade more to go (at one a year).

But we know more about him now, this golfer and man in transition, than we did when he stood on the 17th green on Saturday, when he could have gone either way in the championship's final 19 holes. We know now that Tiger Woods, playing for his mother and his wife and himself and his legacy and in his father's memory, is capable not only of stunning golf, but also of summoning his talent when he most wants it. It didn't happen at Augusta, it didn't happen at Winged Foot, but it happened at Royal Liverpool, and one for three in golf is outstanding. We know that he's evolving as a man in appealing ways. (Nicklaus did the same in his 30s.) We know now that his father's death did not rob him of emotion. If anything, it did the opposite.

Tiger's long, sobbing postvictory hug with Williams brought to mind another famous golf embrace. Not the hug Tiger shared with his father in '97, when he won the Masters for the first time, at age 21, by 12 shots. That was all about, "We did it." That was all about, "We showed 'em." The hug on Sunday brought to mind a scene at Augusta in '95, when the winner, Ben Crenshaw, was comforted by his caddie, Carl Jackson, days after Gentle Ben had buried his teacher and surrogate father, Harvey Penick. The SI cover line was, ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING. Still works.