The same pundits who seemed convinced Tiger would not return in the near future, if at all this season, are now explaining at length why it makes perfect sense for him to stage his return to the public eye at the Masters.
For once, they are largely right.
Yes the media is tightly controlled at Augusta, as are the crowds, with the wealthiest live audience of any golf tournament, which should help keep cursed shouts to a minimum.
But Tiger has overcome fan distraction before, and he certainly knows how to deal with reporters: a simply but firm “no comment,” over and over again. At the Masters, or any tournament, it is easy to avoid answering questions.
But what is not so easy to avoid is something few people have considered, certainly not the pundits, but I bet Tiger has.
The Wednesday pro-am.
If he were to show up a week later at the Heritage in Harbor Town, or at just about any regular season PGA Tournament, big or small, his return to “competitive” golf would not be on Thursday. It would begin a day earlier, when Tiger joins 3 or 4 folks like you and me (well, folks like me but with more discretionary income to buy pro-am spots for $5-$10,000 the going rate on Tour). Not only is Wednesday more accessible to fans and media than any the day of the event, but the pro, Tiger, is actually expected to be entertaining to a group of mature hackers (Don’t take offense, even if you play off scratch you look like hacker to Tiger and kin. Really).
Why not just duck the pro-am you ask? Because PGA Tour requires the top 50 or so players, as determined by the money list that week, to play in the pro-am as part of their deal, the privilege of being on Tour. Even Tiger. And he is always that high on the money list
In the past he has mainly avoided mingling with little people at the pro-am by simply favoring tournaments without them, like the four Majors, the Toru and Players Championship, paid overseas appearances and limited field events like the World Match Plays. When he does play in a “regular” Tour event, it is often one in which he enjoys a contractual obligation to have his sponsor provide amateur partners, either huge clients or execs of his sponsors. Problem is, all of his big sponsors except Nike have fled, and the real clout goes to title sponsors, which Nike is not, but AT&T, Buick and Accenture, all no longer Tiger sponsors, were.
I totally understand why Tiger does not want his return to golf to be five hours spent with 3-4 guys drinking bear and curious about his sex life, with no professional courtesy to extend, guys who feel that for their ten grand Tiger owes them a bit of conversation.
The Masters has no pro-am, and that is one of many reasons why Tiger wouldn’t peak his head out before it.
Can’t say I blame him.