New Year, New Me. You probably know some BAG who was spitting that for the first couple weeks of the year. The same guy who hosts a dryuary fitness challenge but doesn’t actually run any miles. No names mentioned: Adam Hawk.

But let me hit you with a New Year, New Me that I’m actually going to try and abide by. And that’s my attitude when it comes to Tiger Woods. Because while I’m never going to be a Tiger honk, I will entertain the idea that THIS COMEBACK might actually be different than the last 11. That this time, there’s actually a chance that Tiger becomes a golfer again and not some sideshow caricature of himself — Willie Mays in a Mets jersey. Or Joe Namath as a Ram. No this time, I actually believe that the Cat coming out of hibernation isn’t to make sure that the gears keep grinding on Tiger Inc. and that merch keeps flying off the shelf. This time I think it’s because he believes his fused together spine can hold up. That he can actually get back in the race, peg up the ball and go to war with these young guys based on his actual skillset, not his greatest hits album.

Do I believe that? No. Not yet. I’ve heard The Cat talk way too much to believe anything he says. I want to see him actually do it first. Not just a round at a time. Or a weekend at a time. I want to see him go out and compete. Not just make a cut and stick around long enough to put on the Sunday red, but to do it with the tournament on the line — making putts he used to drain in his sleep. Stuffing chips tight like he used to do, not sticking a wedge in the ground and chunking it, like he’s done the past couple years.

Tiger Honk, this isn’t an invitation to come back in here. Don’t come in with Masters odds or a shot-by-shot breakdown of the Pro-Am round he’s playing right now. I don’t care. Don’t @ me when Tiger steps in front of the mic later today spitting the same noise he’s spit in front of mics for the last decade. Just do it. And if he can’t do it at Torrey Pines, a place he absolutely owns, then he’s probably not going to be able to do it anywhere else.

But again, new year, new me. And for the first time in a long time, I’ll entertain the idea that The Cat isn’t trying to pull the wool over our eyes. That he has changed his body and his game. He’s working alone now, there’s no swing coach trying to fix him. Hell, maybe he’s even leaving 20% these days.

That doesn’t mean I think he can run DJ and JT and Rory and Jordan down. He’s going to have to prove that. But for the first time in a long time, I’ll acknowledge that this at least feels different. And different is good.

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