It was on the ninth hole on Thursday that Tiger Woods had his Roy Jones, Jr. moment.
He had hit his drive towards the trees that line the left side, standing between the first and ninth fairways. He wasn't completely stymied, but his ball was in the second cut (it's not exactly rough, more like a two-day growth of beard), limbs were blocking his path, and his straight-on view included only the front right portion of the green.
The ninth green sits atop a rise, guarded along its left flank by two deep bunkers. The flag was at the top left; the front right includes the false front that has broken many hearts, notably that of Greg Norman in 1996. Woods hit a shot that only he could imagine, a sweeping draw from the fuzzy lie that started well right of the green, rode the right-left wind, landed in the middle of the putting surface and came to a halt on the back shelf, twelve feet from the cup. He drained the delicate putt for a birdie that no one else in the field could possibly have achieved.
When his ball skidded to a halt on the green, I was reminded of Jones -- not Bobby Jr. the golfer, but Roy Jr. the boxer. During his reign as the most explosive (and risk-averse) fighter many of us have ever seen, Jones turned to rap to express his thoughts on his life and career. One number, released around the time he took on another overmatched light-heavyweight, was called, "Y'all Must've Forgot," reminding the world of his greatness and asserting his claim as the best pound-for-pound fighter alive.
Billions of gallons of virtual ink have been spilled asking whether Tiger Woods would be the same when he returned from his self-imposed exile. That shot on nine, the eagle that came before it, the other eagle on 15, and Friday's tidy round of 70 on a day when the course played much harder than it had in the first round, provided a wakeup call. Can his public performances clear the air of all the talk about his private life? Sure. Will the crowds cheer for him? Of course. Is every golfer on the leaderboard, and every spectator and viewer, going to be intensely aware of his every move, anticipating something extraordinary?
Yes. We all must've forgot.