You just can't help yourself. You're letting it happen again. You're falling into the "Tiger's back!" trap.
Your imagination is starting to bloom like mutant azaleas. You hear and read the stories about how Tiger Woods returned from a two-month layoff and "flirted with 30" on the front nine of Monday's practice round at Augusta National. You can't help adding 30 plus 30 while remembering the course record is 63.
And you're thinking, "He just might shock the world and win this Masters."
No. He will not.
I dearly hope I'm wrong about this, but my better judgment tells me (1) he won't even make the 36-hole cut and (2) he will never win another major.
Allow me to shake you by the collar and save you from yourself.
The Tiger Woods I listened to in his Tuesday media session sounded as if he has made blissful new peace with being just another golfer enjoying the rite-of-spring Masters experience with the 7-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son who are now his life's priority.
I've fallen into the Tiger Trap again and again over the past five years and refuse to do it again. You might say I've put myself through Tiger rehab. No matter how much I want him to be TIGER WOODS again -- no matter how much the game I love to play and watch needs him -- I have weaned myself off the false hopes and fading memories.
Oh, those oh-my-God moments with which he once lifted us off our couches -- shattering barriers and capturing the nation's imagination by winning the 1997 Masters by 12 shots; winning the Tiger Slam, four straight majors in 2000 and 2001, the most overpowering stretch of golf any man has ever played; pulling off the trick-shot chip-in at Augusta's par-3 16th that helped win the 2005 Masters.
Lord, have mercy, that Tiger was a human electrical storm who could spew curse words, fling clubs and bury cowering rivals with birdies. That Tiger had us all by the eyeballs. That Tiger turned what was little more than a minor sport watched mostly by middle-to-upper class white people into a smaller version of the NFL. That Tiger, wearing and seeing red on Sundays, won four Masters, four PGAs, three U.S. Opens and three Open Championships.
That Tiger is gone forever.
Face it: Tiger Woods hasn't won a Masters in 10 years -- not since that Nike-commercial chip-in. Tiger Woods hasn't won a major in seven years -- not since winning the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg. His staggering list of injuries has grown NFL long: knee surgeries, back surgery, Achilles problems, neck issue, elbow injury.
Yes, Lord, have mercy.
Face it: That Tiger went from physical to mental wreck. Maybe it started with his final major pre-scandal, the 2009 PGA. For the first time in his career, Tiger blew a 54-hole lead, losing head-to-head on Sunday to Y.E. Yang ... who hasn't won on the PGA Tour since.
"Y.E. Yang was Tiger's Buster Douglas," says ESPN.com golf writer Michael Collins, referring to the unknown boxer who knocked out Mike Tyson when he seemed invincible. Surely, that shattered some of Tiger's confidence and helped break his psychological grip on golf's throat.
But so did the infidelity scandal in late 2009 that sent him into in-patient therapy for nearly two months. Yes, Tiger did bounce back to win five tournaments and PGA player of the year in 2013. But since the scandal and treatment, he has rarely resembled his old self during majors. Especially on weekends, he has had the slumped, shrinking body language of an impostor, the former intimidator now intimidated by the growing pressure to win five more majors and pass Jack Nicklaus, who won 18.
Maybe it was the so-very-public shame he felt or the humbling breakdown therapy required. Something dramatically changed in his competitive psyche.
Yes, since the scandal, he has tied for fourth three times at the Masters, tied for third and sixth at the Open Championship and tied for fourth at the U.S. Open.
But face it: Not once was he in realistic late position to win any of those majors. Not once.
Remember, this is Tiger Woods we're talking about. Don't give me he "hung in." Don't defend him for also-ran top-five finishes.
What major championship evidence do we have since 2008 that Tiger can become Tiger again? Little, if any.
Now Tiger Woods is 39 years old.
Battling injuries last year, he played only seven events -- missed two cuts, withdrew twice, finished tied for 80th, 69th and tied for 25th. He began this year by missing the cut at Phoenix.
That Friday before the Super Bowl, in the last full round he has played this year, he shot a career-worst 82. The man who once had golf's best short game fell prey to a psychological affliction known as the "chip yips." Think about this: The man once considered a lock to win the most majors ever could no longer make consistent contact with something so simple as little chips.
He chili-dipped them a foot. He skulled them over greens. The mental demons had him by the throat.
This, remember, was the same Tiger "in the" Woods who can no longer aim his driver.
He made it through 11 holes the following Thursday in San Diego before calling it a day, blaming back pain. He went home to work on his mind, body and game. He hasn't played a single tournament since.
And suddenly, he announces he's ready to contend at the Masters?
Don't get fooled again.
Before every tournament, Tiger Woods tells the media he's "right there" and that he has "worked extremely hard." That's just the way he plays the media game. He knows that's what the golf world wants to hear because that's what it needs to hear.
We listen. We get carried away.
Not this time.
Now he's going to bury his chip-yip demons on the course with the most severe degree of chipping difficulty? Good luck with that, Tiger, under Thursday/Friday pressure.
No, you argue, remember what Tiger did after he left treatment and showed up at the 2010 Masters without having played a single warm-up tournament? He flipped the switch and tied for fourth.
That was five years ago. Now Tiger has yet another new coach, unknown Chris Como, his fourth since turning pro. Four times he has allowed a new coach to revamp his swing and change (as he said this week) his "release pattern" -- which, of course, he blamed for his shockingly poor chipping two months ago.
Tiger keeps searching for his old self almost as desperately as we do.
Now I'm not sure if he's closer to delusional or ceremonial. Probably the latter: I believe he showed up at Augusta just to enjoy the week as a past champion, to play Wednesday's Par 3 Contest (for the first time since 2004) while his kids caddy for him -- and to contend only by happy accident or miracle.
So please, calm down and enjoy this guy for who he now is and isn't.
Face the fact.
TIGER WOODS is no more.