In the wake of his latest interview at Isleworth, in one sense I’m happy to see Tiger coming back, in another I’m disappointed he has chosen the Masters as the place to do it. In deciding to return at Augusta, Woods has taken the sumptuous cake that is The Masters and poured gravy all over it. All the talk about green jackets, slippery greens and zipping it back into Rae’s Creek is going to be drowned out by a Tiger feeding frenzy. As one reporter put it, he’ll need a flak jacket not a green jacket!
Would it not have made a lot more sense for Tiger to make his first appearance back at the Tavistock Cup? After all it’s a bit of an airy fairy two day event, between two posh clubs, Isleworth and Lake Nona, behind closed doors in a gated community. Nobody in the prawn sandwich munching crowd would have the audacity to heckle him, for fear of being crossed off the Woods’ Christmas card list.
Does Tiger actually think he can win at Augusta without tournament practice? I know he’s produced some miracles in the past, the monster putt at the 17th in Sawgrass, the chip-in at Augusta, covering up his indiscretions for years and the Rocco putt at the US Open spring to mind, but surely he doesn’t expect to contend at The Masters. If he were serious about winning, I suspect he would have played the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the lead up. To my knowledge Tiger has never missed that event and his friendship with Arnold Palmer is well documented. Perhaps Tiger wanted to spare Arnie from that potential awkward moment under the bleachers on the 18th after his final round. We’ll never know if Arnie would have hugged him or pushed him into the lake.
Tiger’s decision to return at The Masters is, to me, a tactical manoeuvre. With due deference to the course and its immaculate condition, the people behind the tournament are the equivalent of a golfing museum piece, an antiquated bunch of suits who for the rest of the year don’t even get the tiniest squeak in the running of the PGA Tour. They run their event with military precision. The media are strictly controlled, both in their numbers, where they can go, and potentially what they can and cannot ask Tiger. I remember Ken Green doing one of his little inserts on the beeb last year. He was walking and talking as he headed down towards the practice ground only to be stopped about a hundred yards short of the range by BA Baracus. Not even charming Ken was getting what he wanted at Augusta. The green jacket brigade have been known to “remove from the property” media hacks who have the gall to question the speed of the greens or the slightly off colour of the magnolias. Yep, commentators will have to be on their best behaviour at the press conferences or risk being taken out from behind the perfectly manicured grassy knoll.
So it seems Tiger, though “so so sorry”, is still hell bent on having things so so much his own way. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic for the game to have him back, but to hijack the first major of the year in doing it is a bit rich for my blood. Has anyone considered the odds of a having a weekend at Augusta with the Tiger having been dispatched with his tail between his legs? You can have all the magnolias you want on the lane, but this one stinks.