3 weeks from tomorrow Tiger Woods will tee off in a tournament for the first time since his Thanksgiving contretemps with wife Elin over marital infidelity. Woods' return at the Masters is not that much of a surprise. I've predicted several times that I thought he would return next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but that was always as a tuneup for Augusta.
The Masters will afford Tiger 2 things...familiarity--he has won 4 times at Augusta National--plus a very controlled environment. The Masters very tightly controls the media and the crowds at the event. Only longtime golf writers get credentialed for the Masters. I have tried for years and gotten rejected every time. This after covering several USGA Championships, PGA, Champions and LPGA tour events over the years. One of my goals before I finish my broadcasting career is a media badge for the Masters. So the TMZ's and the other gossip sites that fueled the Tiger scandal won't be able to get credentialed for the Master--this or any year. The tournament organizers also keep a very tight rein on the crowd. If you have ever attended a Masters you know that the fans tend to be older and more golf purists. They are less likely to give Tiger trouble. In addition the Marshalls on each hole have real power. They can and will take away a patron's pass and have them escorted off the grounds.
With all that being said Tiger will still be watched every second for his demeanor on and off the course. I suspect you may actually see a kinder, gentler Tiger beginning with the practice rounds on Monday April 5th. Do I think Tiger will win...no but I wouldn't put it past him.
A few notes for those who might be attending either the practice rounds hoping to see Tiger as he gets ready for Thursday. He likes to practice very early in the morning. The course opens for patrons at 8am but Tiger often goes out just after sunrise to practice...if you are lucky you might be able to catch him by heading towards the back nine right after 8 and wait for his group to arrive. He often practices with Mark O'Meara at Augusta.
I will watch-as will millions of Americans--to see how Tiger performs. I hope he has straigtened out his marital situation so he can go back to being the world's best golfer.