Tiger Takes Questions for First Time Since Incident
The best thing to happen to golf since Tiger Woods is, well, once again Tiger Woods.
On Tuesday, March 16, Tiger Woods, the biggest draw in golf, announced his plans to return to the PGA tour.
In a statement released to the media and also on his Web site, Woods announced that he will indeed return to the links at the Masters tournament set to begin on April 5 at Augusta National in Georgia.
Woods has been absent from the PGA tour since November of 2009, when he won the Australian Masters. Just weeks after that victory came, the infamous early morning car crash and subsequent sex scandal, sex rehab, public apology and private therapy ensued. Now finally, after much speculation, the recently disgraced Woods is set to return to the game that made him the world's first billion-dollar professional athlete.
While it may seem to many that the most prestigious, and arguably most difficult, tournament in golf might not be the best place to shake off the rust after a six-month absence, Augusta is an ideal venue for Tiger's post-scandal comeback. With its stringent security and strict standards for media and spectator access, Augusta will allow Woods to focus solely on his game. Being perhaps the most exclusive and private course available, the Masters should offer Woods a refuge from hecklers and reporters alike. Ironically, Augusta is so exclusive that it managed to quietly keep all non-Caucasians off its course right up until 1990, only seven years before Woods became the first black man to win the highly coveted green jacket.
Ever the control freak, Woods successfully managed to play puppet master with his public image for the majority of his professional career before his rapid, stunning and very public fall from grace began on November 27. The amount of control Augusta can afford Woods must have undoubtedly factored into his decision to return to golf at the Masters.
Las Vegas oddsmakers show Woods at a 4-1 favorite to win. If Woods lets his score speak for him, the world's number one golfer will likely move past his recent scandal. If Woods should bomb, however, then the circumstances surrounding his absence will be blamed for his fall and Woods will remain a marked man in the public's eye.
Regardless of where Woods places on the leaderboard, his return is guaranteed to make winners out of the sponsors, advertisers, PGA players and the tour itself. Since Tiger's arrival on the PGA tour, PGA prize money has increased from 65.95 million in 1996 to 279.8 million in 2010, and according to the Nielson ratings system, recent Tiger-less tour television ratings are down 11 percent from last year.
Let Tiger return to the perfectly imperfect world that judges him for staying below par in his games, not in his marriage. As for a successful comeback for Woods, sports fans are betting on it.