Today Tiger Woods announced that he will be making his return to competitive golf at The Masters Tournament. He released the following statement this morning:
“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like 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’s been a while since I last played.
“I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment. Although I’m returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life.
“When I finally got into a position to think about competitive golf again, it became apparent to me that the Masters would be the earliest I could play. I called both Joe Lewis and Arnold Palmer and expressed my regrets for not attending the Tavistock Cup and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. I again want to thank them both for their support and their understanding. Those are fantastic tournaments and I look forward to competing in them again.
“I would also like to thank the Augusta National members and staff for their support. I have deep appreciation for everything that they do to create a wonderful event for the benefit of the game.”
Along with many others in the golf world, I’m very excited to see the world’s #1 golfer back on the course. Tiger returning at the Masters has for a while now made the most sense to me for several reasons:
1. The Patrons: The patrons at Augusta are among the most knowledgeable, courteous and civilized spectators in all of golf, thus minimizing instances of heckling from outside the ropes (regardless, we’ll probably still hear a comment or two).
2. Media Control: The Augusta National Golf Club has total control over the entire tournament, including media credentials. There will only be golf media at the event, and no news outlets or tabloid media (sorry TMZ).
3. The Course: Tiger is completely familiar with Augusta National and has the positive memories of winning four green jackets there (1997, 2001, 2002 & 2005). Reference has been made to his return after his father’s death at Winged Foot where he missed the cut. That was a course he was not as familiar with and a different set of emotional circumstances in my opinion. I don’t think we’ll see him miss the cut in this event, in fact I predict that he will win (see below).
4. Jack’s Record: With Tiger’s ultimate goal of surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, I just could not see him missing The Masters, especially this year where three of the major venues fit his game and where he has won multiple times: Augusta, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews (Whistling Straits is the wild card). I didn’t think Tiger’s competitive nature would allow him to miss the majors at any of these tournament sites and the opportunity to add to his total of 14 major wins.
In the past week or so it seemed like a scenario of Tiger returning at the unofficial Tavistock Cup event, then Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill tournament, then the Masters seemed like a possibility, but the media circus that would ensue at any of those events in my mind seemed prohibitive. As it is there will be many media trucks outside the gates at Augusta National, but inside Tiger will (for the most part) be able to focus and concentrate on his golf game better than at any other tournament venue than I can think of.
For what it’s worth (not much really), I actually made my prediction of his return at the Masters back in January in a comment on this post at Ryan Ballangee’s Waggle Room. To top it off, I predicted that he will win the event, my rationale (still) being that he will be more determined than ever to prove that even after another long layoff from tournament golf, he is still the best player in the world.
Either way, it is great to see Tiger Woods returning to competitive golf, and I can’t think of a better venue to make his return than at the Masters. I’ll be there for the Wednesday practice round and par 3 contest, and I hope to see Tiger preparing for his first tournament round (I’ll try to get some photos and video and post them on the blog here). Television ratings are sure to be high on Thursday and Friday as the golf world waits to see if Tiger can bring his A-game to Augusta National. I believe he will — then we’ll just have to see if TW can come away with the W. Even if he doesn’t, maybe he can give us another exciting Masters highlight or two like this one: