Woods Enters Career-Defining Crucible

Robert Beck/Getty Images

Something was missing. What it is, as the lyric goes, ain't exactly clear. Finding it was the unsolved mystery of last year and the promise of this one. Whether Tiger Woods locates it in time to break Jack Nicklaus' major championship record or not, what seems manifestly true is this: The closing holes of his inward nine as a champion golfer are a virtual certainty to be as compelling, maybe more so, than the achievements of the heady outward half, if for no other reason than he's now playing into a three-club karmic wind.

Time is the confederate of youth. Faced with a player, 23-year-old Rory McIlroy, who seems to possess the same passing gear only Woods himself could find over the last decade and a half, every opportunity suddenly seems more dear. Woods' talent, as...

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