Can't believe Woods would go to Augusta cold
There are conflicting reports on when Tiger Woods will return to playing golf and the best guess here is that he will not go into the Masters cold, i.e. without a tournament under his belt.
The only time he ever went into a major after a layoff was the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when he missed the cut at a major for the first time in his career. That was after his father died and he was absent for nine weeks. (Incorrect information was edited into a wire-service story in Friday’s Star. It has happened only once.)
Would he go in cold again? Hard to believe, at least here. I suspect he will play in the Tavistock Cup, March 22-23 at his own Isleworth course in Windermere, Fla. That’s an inter-club exhibition against the nearby Lake Nona Club, where Ernie Els and Annika Sorenstam, among many other big-name golfers, are members. The public isn’t allowed in, hardly any press, and the no-pressure Tavistock might be a comfortable place for him to return to competition without his love life taking centre stage.
As well, a little voice here says Augusta National wants Woods to play a full tournament, such as Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill, which runs March 25 to 28, and get the inevitable media circus out of the way before he arrives at Augusta. That way the hubbub from Woods’s first real press conference would not overshadow the Masters in anyway.
That part makes sense here. Sooner or later he’s going to face a grilling. Bay Hill, the only tournament Woods has never missed as a professional and one he has won several times, is held only about three miles from his favourite fire hydrant.
On the other hand, obtaining a Masters media credential is next to impossible, particularly at this time of year, which keeps out the tablod types. Plus, the Augusta fan base, identified by bar-coded badges and tickets, tends to be more golf-centric and less prone to shouting out rude remarks and heckles. Spectators, who live in fear of having their badges confiscated forever, can be more easily controlled at – and be tossed from -- the Masters by the enormous security presence than at Bay Hill or anywhere else.
Woods has hired Ari Fleischer, the former White House spokesman who runs a crisis-control P.R. firm for IMG, the agent firm that also handles Woods. IMG also has a strong presence at Bay Hill, given that Palmer was the first client signed by Mark McCormick, the late cornerstone of IMG. At Augusta, by comparison, IMG has little power or influence.
We will know about Bay Hill by next Friday at the latest; a player needs to commit to the following week’s tournament by Friday afternoon.