It goes without saying that Augusta National is one of the most storied places in golf history. Just think about the Sunday showdowns there from years and decades past. How many times have you found yourself glued to the television on a beautiful April weekend because you can't bear to pry your eyes away from the storyline unfolding in front of you?
How many stories have you heard about golf fans waiting, wishing, hoping to step foot on the course someday, themselves? They may not get the chance late on a Sunday in April, when afternoon creeps into evening and dusk provides the backdrop for a Masters champion or choker. But still, who wouldn't want to witness the sheer beauty of Augusta and get a glimpse at the wondrous course behind the tournament that provides such drama?
For Tiger, plenty of personal history resides at Augusta. He won his first major there in 1997. At 21, he became the youngest ever to slip on the green jacket. And he did it by a whopping 12 shots — against the world's greatest golfers.
"Historic," the Augusta Chronicle cried. "Woods launches new era." It was a championship that catapulted him into a celebrity world that ultimately helped lead to his demise.
In November, the perfect picture — the one Woods had worked so hard to create — cracked. Then, amidst a scandal that even the master of image couldn't control, it shattered. Four months after the sordid details started leaking out, Tiger will be back on the Tour. Ironic, perhaps, that he will make his return in the same place where he once launched himself into the stratosphere. Maybe he's trying to conjure up some of the images of days gone by. Certainly he's trying to create more rich history for himself at Augusta. Even scandal doesn't squash competitive fire.
Twice Tiger has come back from a long layoff to play in a major. Once he missed the cut, once he won the tournament. Is there anything to be gleaned from the past given the inherent difference of this recent reprieve from golf?
I asked Boston Globe golf writer Mike Whitmer on SportsDesk if he thinks Tiger's focus will reign supreme as it has so often in the past. Whitmer's reponse: It's hard to bet against the guy on the golf course. Maybe that explains why Tiger is the 4-to-1 favorite to win the Masters.
Whitmer will be there to witness the history in Augusta next month — "Tiger watch" and all. And I, along with countless others around the world, will be watching on television. There will the long look at Amen Corner, the comforting thwak when club meets tee and tons of Tiger. It's inevitable. But even if Tiger doesn't make the cut — and clearly most aren't betting against him — golf will be happy to have him back.
The bigger question is how the world will react. If it comes down to the 18th hole on Sunday, will you pull for Tiger or … well, the other guy? Before November, it was always Tiger. But now, respect for his game and professional achievements aside, cheering for him will never be the same.
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