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By: Vaughn Wilson, Special to Black

Phil Mickelson put together one of his best performances in a major and probably his golfing career period, en route to winning the coveted green jacket at the Augusta National Golf Club. Mickelson played by far the best golf on Sunday and went bogey-free to capture his third Masters title.

While Tiger Woods’ fans hope for a regular schedule, the PGA Tour is going about its business with optimism that the tour can in fact continue to grow without depending on one individual. Woods made a valiant but erratic showing at best at The Masters.

While skepticism of his sincerity is debated among golf commentators, fans and fellow golfers, Woods has begun to show signs that he is a different person…or at least is in a different mindset.

Woods recently committed to Quail Hollow, The Players and the AT&T National tournaments. Before the incident in which he admitted to multiple sexual relationships outside of his marriage, Woods kept his schedule as well as his feelings close to his brow.

Only persons close to the Woods camp knew his schedule as he would commit at the last moment. That caused a scramble to many of the tournaments to accommodate the inflow of traffic his presence caused.

These early commitments allow for a much smoother tournament.

Tournament organizers, their sponsors and the PGA Tour in general can work at a more diligent pace on those tournaments with advance notice.

Woods showed some signs of a more personable approach at The Masters as well. Once stone-faced and seemingly oblivious to applause, compliments or any other gesture impressed upon him by the galleries at golf tournaments before the incident; he was much more responsive.

Not only did he acknowledge that he heard the comments from the crowd, but often offered oral and non-verbal response.

Less impressive was one particular expletive that slipped from Woods’ tongue. In his first public press conference open to questions from the media, he committed to cleaning up his act on the course. Long regarded as one of the filthiest mouths on the tour, Woods said he would refrain from such behavior. But one incident in particular at The Masters, was caught on tape as a foul gesture eeked out of his mouth. While no one can expect him to be perfect, he did exhibit much better behavior later on during the tournament when he hit wayward shots.

Tom Watson, legendary eight-time major champion, expressed his opinion about the state of the game when asked about Woods during the major week. When asked what he would ask Tiger if he had the chance to interview him, Watson simply stated, “I’d ask him how he’s hitting the ball.” While Watson wouldn’t delve into the usual conversation, he showed why he is considered one of the all-time best.

Watson exhibited the level of class that is synonymous with golf. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Bobby Jones and countless others brought an armor of class that went unscathed. While Woods’ place in the victory column might escalate this year, he must work on something more than just his swing. He must make every effort to win back at least some of the golf fans who felt betrayed by his actions.

Many times over his career, Woods has said that the record books at the end of his career would determine where he stands in history. He specifically points to major championships as the barometer. With the events of last year in the minds of golf and sports fans everywhere, the pressure is now on for him to perform off the course as well as on the course.

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