Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Masters Looms Ever Closer, Tiger at Augusta Is Good for Game

Without needing to deliberate, we all know what happens, of course. Everyone is suddenly raving about the reemergence of Tiger Woods, and tries to jettison the infamous memories of his humiliating sex scandals. Months ago tabloids were ridiculing and blasting a man, who America proclaimed as the greatest sports figure.

From all parts of the world, he's perceived as the iconic golfer, the impeccable athlete fans become attached to, purchasing his name brand Gatorade, golf clubs and sportswear. But eventually, his credibility was sabotaged when the world learned that Woods was a sex-addict, committing a transgression against his wife, Elin. Because of his malicious nonsense and infidelity, Tiger forced the masses to take a peculiar outlook, after believing he was the greatest family man, teacher and role model on the planet.

Now he’s making a substantial return earlier than expected on the most prestigious surface. Expected to return to Augusta National, the Masters will become more than just a traditional site, relished for its conventional triumphs and beautiful scenery. Even if people wait for another breathtaking moment, the media circus waits in a refreshing atmosphere, too, longing to interrogate Tiger about a troubling episode and his tattered respectability. Months ago, news trucks and media personnel stationed near his gated community home and invaded his privacy, seeking further details to unwrap a vacuous saga.

Citizens may want to anticipate that reporters will invade Tiger’s space, while reporters pontificate and approach him with exhausting queries. All that said, his presence could hijack the tenor of the Masters, as Woods’ return will also expand television ratings and accumulate a mass audience. Needless to say, the Masters will earn the highest TV ratings in the history of golf, if not the highest ratings for a sports event. Where he has won four major championships and enjoyed his achievements as the greatest golfer, he finally faces reality and returns to his livelihood, no longer hiding from a society with mixed emotions.

“The Master is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect,” Woods said Tuesday. “After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel that I’m ready to start my season at Augusta. The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it has been a while since I last played.”

Well, there’s nothing wrong with Tiger wanting to come back, as long as he’s ready to compete at the highest level. It’s not what we want to see, of course. What we want to see is whether or not he’s mentally and physically able to set his mind to it and fulfill his passion by enduring interest in a strategic sport. It’s the one sport that requires focus, with limited disruptions and trouble. Amid a fragile marriage between him and Elin, we wonder as to whether paparazzi or even an impaired relationship would affect a watchful return. There’s no greater environment to start his resurrection than at Augusta National, where Woods established fame and glory as the world’s greatest icon and became a respectable role model.

Apparently, the Masters has brought Tiger good fortune, during the course of his 14 seasons. Besides any other golfer, Tiger is embraced for his notable influence on a pedestrian sport and is worshiped for turning the game into a momentous event, with his unparalleled deeds. He made a splash in the premature stages of his career, when he emerged as a promising golfer in 1995. Long before his late father’s death and before he married Elin, Tiger accepted eulogy for not only his ultimate perfection, but for his charitable effort and devotion to children in communities.

He will not earn back some citizens who were scorned from his poor judgment or riches and endorsements. But it’s always easy realizing no one can take away Tiger’s talent or overjoyed memories that he accumulated on the golf course. In better days to come, he’s still on pace to shatter Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major title, a milestone that will help Woods restore his reputation and popularity. But more importantly, he’d convey the way disgruntled people perceive him as an individual. Beyond all, the Masters is only three weeks away, which means Tiger is three weeks away from teeing off since the perplexing car accident in front of his home and the malicious sex scandal.

Living in a forgiving country, half of the population is removing the pathetic images. Nobody in their right state of mind is reflecting back to when one of his mistresses sold a text message for six figures to the U.S. Weekly, revealing that he had an affair with her at least more than 30 times. Nobody is thinking back to when he slammed into a fire hydrant and neighbor’s tree and emerged from the SUV barefooted and with lacerations to his lips in the wee hours of Thanksgiving weekend. Anybody with good sense is glad to move forward, pleased, surprised or heedless of his sudden comeback.

Even though he cheated on his wife, let down thousands, and spoke publicly in a laughable and BS speech, Tiger is just as exposed to human error, as are the rest of us. Fine, whenever you commit to vows, but break trust within your wife and place unpleasant tension on your children, you are considered a worthless S.O.B. At least that’s how we should feel, hearing the most trustworthy sporting icon make front-page headlines in the tabloids for marital affairs.

Clearly, there’s no golfer holding any grudges. Each golfer has spoken pleasantly of Tiger’s mistake and recent return to the golf course, which will have a major impact at this year’s Masters. Rory Sabbatini, who has become Woods archenemy and agitator, had nice words, telling the USA Today, “We all know you don’t just have a talent like that and it disappears. It’s going to be there, it’s going to return. He’s going to be playing well.”

For those worried about his legacy, all Tiger needs is a win.

“He will be embraced by the players,” said the legendary Ernie Els. “We need him out here. The sport of golf needs him. He’s the top draw in sports and he’ll help the game.”

Tiger will indeed bolster the game’s image, especially with a win at the Masters. In all likelihood, he’s favored to win it all before golfers tee off in the early days of April, a month scattered showers falls, a month flowers bloom, and a month people await Woods. But this time the world will actually watch, knowing his status. This time, Tiger aims to win five titles at the Masters. This time, all eyes are on him.

“I think Woods return will be the biggest media event other than the Obama inauguration in the past 10 or 15 years,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports.

Maybe there’s a possibility that this sporting event earns a higher television rating than the Super Bowl or the hit show in the early-'80s M-A-S-H.

Keep in mind, Woods hasn’t won at Augusta since 2005. Aside from his travails at the Masters, he finished the entire 2009 season without winning a major title after returning from a nine-month intermission of rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery. Still, his year was pretty solid a year ago, winning six of 17 events on the PGA Tour, but faltered in the Masters. It may just be the year Tiger recovers, and dominates at will, zealous to compete at such an all-time high amid his prime.

Fitting for his fifth green jacket wouldn’t be such a letdown, but a way to find his groove and aplomb at 34.

Whether you wish to call it a redemptive moment or a renaissance stage for Eldrick Woods, he’s back to fascinate and disrupt. He’s back to hijack and intrigue. Either way, he’s back.