In April 2010, the world's then-No. 1 golfer, Tiger Woods, played his first tournament of the year at Augusta National at the Masters in the midst of a 365-day nightmare.
Tiger actually played fairly well, finishing in a tie for fourth and leading many of us to think he wasn't going to miss a beat, despite the long layoff and all that happened to him in his private life (which isn't, of course, private at all).
Hardly would that be the case, as Woods' year would go from bad to worse throughout the summer.
This year Woods entered his first tournament a good two-and-a-half months earlier than last year, entering the field this week at the San Diego Open on the North Course at Torrey Pines.
Tiger, like he did at the Masters last year, had a good opening round to his year. In 2010 he shot a 68 at Augusta National, trailing first round leader Fred Couples by just two shots.
His first round of this year was a 69. Although the 69 is good, it does only put him in a tie for 22nd, and he is five shots back of the surprise leader Sunghoon Kang.
Yet, despite the fact that his 69 today was perhaps not as impressive as his 68 last year, it seems, somehow, light years better for him.
In his first round of 2010, he seemed to be doing it with smoke and mirrors. He scored well despite himself. His game was erratic and inconsistent, and perhaps only with great resolve and experience was he able to put a top-10 finish together at the year's first major in 2010.
The first round of 2011 on Thursday in San Diego seemed much, much more like the pre-2010 Tiger, the guy who has the most talent of anyone on the planet in this particular sport.
He did show flashes of the old Tiger last year, particularly from August on, when his game got considerably better despite the fact he went winless all year. At the Ryder Cup, in particular, he seemed for long stretches like his old self, especially during the singles match on the final day in Wales.
But even those occasional flashes late last year paled with what we saw from Woods on Thursday.
He was calm, in control and played beautifully.
One must point out, however, that even with that great round, he is only tied for 22nd, which may be an indication that wins on the PGA Tour will never come as easily as they once did for Mr. Woods.
Yet, it seems inevitable that they are destined to come, and judging by the player we saw during the first round at Torrey Pines, those wins are more likely to come sooner than later.
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