We have seen this one time before in sports. Two dozen springs ago, Secretariat ran a hole through the wind and won the Belmont Stakes by three city blocks.
Tiger Woods is making Secretariat seem s-l-o-w.You should savor what is coming now. Such moments as these are rationed.
Tiger Woods will fulfill the first outrageous prophecy about him 'round about sunset today when he wins the first of many Masters and obliterates all the scoring records in the process.
Now normally you dare not give over to such rash rhetoric because it is a hallowed commandment that the Masters doesn't really begin until the back nine on Sunday. Well, by the back nine Sunday Tiger Woods is apt to be 20 under and a dozen ahead.
This is not Greg Norman. This kid is a stone killer. There will be no monumental collapse.
For of all the things that strike you about this prodigy, this is the one that separates him from the rest, just as it separated Nicklaus and Palmer and Hogan and Jones: Tiger Woods is not afraid to win.
A lot of them are, you know. At the moment of truth, they back off. It may be subconscious. Or not. But winning isn't nearly as easy as it appears. It requires a great deal more than most of us will ever know. You have to be willing to lay yourself open and vulnerable, to be unafraid to take great risk.
In every way, Woods has the eye of the tiger.
You'd like to see somebody pressure him, come at him with some fierce run, six birdies in a row, something to prod him a little, something to make this interesting, or at least quasi-competitive. But he has spread-eagled the field and demoralized everyone.
Besides, he would relish the challenge. That was quickly evident Saturday when he stood on the first tee with Colin Montgomerie. They exchanged not a word. There was a frozen silence. Woods looked more purposeful than usual.
It turns out that Montgomerie had said that he would look keenly forward to meeting Tiger Woods head-to-head sometime, like say, in the next Ryder Cup competition. Well, they went head-to-head Saturday and Woods completely overwhelmed the Scot.
They began play with Woods 3 in front. After just five holes, the margin was 7. After 11 holes, Montgomerie was 10 strokes in arrears and plainly lost. It was, as the Brits would say, quite a thorough thrashing. And remember, Montgomerie is among the five best players in the world and has been the best player in Europe four years running.
But he was obviously intimidated by Woods, and then obliterated. He was like a fighter who has been in against a cruel body puncher. He walked away dazed and will need some time to recover from this and repair his battered psyche. How unnerving it must be to whack a drive 270 yards and then try not to gape when Woods airmails his 40 yards past.
To his considerable credit, Montgomerie was marvelously gracious and brilliantly succinct after he had shot 74 to Woods' 65.
"Look, we're all humans here," he said. "But there is no way humanly possible Tiger Woods is going to lose this tournament."
And a voice from the back of the room asked Montgomerie how he could say something like that. This was his delightful reply:
"Hello, have you just arrived? Have you been on holiday?"
Monty sure was a good sport. But then Tiger has made believers of them all.
And in that regard it needs to be emphasized that Tiger Woods is much more than just some freakish bomber. He has an extraordinary touch. He can chip, which Nicklaus never really learned to master. He is a remarkable lag putter. He has poise and nerve. His course management is mature well beyond his years.
And yet it is not possible to simply dismiss his immense length off the tee, for that is what sets up everything else - wedges from where the rest are hitting 3-irons. But this is what tells you exactly how long Tiger Woods really is - the netting at the end of the practice range, 265 yards away from the middle tees, has been raised from 65 to 80 feet to keep Tiger Woods' drives from coming down like so many dimpled Scud missiles into traffic.
When he is on his game, this is Tiger Woods on the green: stroke, walking, "plunk!" He knows when the ball is going into the cup before it ever does. Nicklaus used to do that.
Part of me laments that there will be no gloriously improbable back-nine drama today.
But the other part relishes the thought of seeing such exquisite virtuosity. Strokes of genius are rare enough in this life.