When Tiger Woods announced his return to the golf world on Tuesday, some people were puzzled.
"Augusta National? Really? He isn't going to warm up before the Masters?" I was asked.
While it may seem odd that Woods would pick his opening tournament to be a major championship, it isn't far-fetched. For the first time in Tiger's career, he isn't so much worried about his finish as much as he is that he does finish.
Like his press conference and his sex therapy classes, playing the Masters is more of a PR pitch than it is actual golf pitches. Tiger is out there to get his feet on the golf course, play a tournament and let this entire media climax finally get over with so he can actually be a golfer again. Over his career, Tiger has made it clear that if he is going to play an event, he thinks he can win it, but it would be interesting to hear his thoughts heading into the Masters this year. Surely he doesn't think he can win, does he, with this much time off?
The Masters is a special place, which gets to pick and choose its media members, fans and players. I once heard an incredible story about Vijay Singh, playing some full bunker shots across Magnolia Lane, from the short-game practice facility to the actual driving range. After a couple of members politely asked him to stop, Hootie Johnson, the then-chairman of the Masters, drove out in a golf cart and asked him if he was planning on competing in the tournament on Thursday. Vijay, puzzled, answered yes, and Hootie then said, "Well, if you don't stop hitting these shots across Magnolia, you will not have a tee time."
That is the power of the Masters. There will be no TMZ. There will be no Radar Online. There will be no Perez Hilton. It will be old media, through and through.
Then we have the fans. These aren't regular fans, they are, to stay true to the Masters parlance, patrons, and they are ticket holders that have come into badges through family hookups, not Ticketmaster. This is the hottest sports ticket in the planet, and to think someone might be giving theirs up this week would be insane.
Augusta is an interesting place. Memberships aren't anything more than a yearly thing, and if you didn't meet the requirements of what Augusta National finds acceptable, you might not get a letter in the mail in the spring asking you for dues. This is a place that prides itself on secrecy, and to think that this will change because Tiger made it, arguably, the biggest sporting event ever, is wrong.
The Masters committee will protect Tiger like one of its own, and the week will be as normal as one could expect. Martha Burk? Ha. This will make her show outside the gates look like a bunch of preschoolers boycotting No. 2 pencils.
Tiger picked Augusta National not because it is perfect timing, but because it is perfect for him.
For the first time, Woods will be teeing it up not to win or lose, but just to play the game.