So Tiger Woods is going to play in the 2010 Masters (April 8-11). My surprise meter barely moved. Notice that I did not say “comeback.”
With all the attention paid to his serial affairs, we must remember that this has been no serious disruption to his golf business. Don’t forget that Woods was the PGA Tour player of the year last year, winning five tournaments, the FedEx Cup and $10 million. The real blows came to his wholesome image and his own psyche, not to mention some endorsement income. His only brush with the law was the car wreck at his home; there’s a certain NFL QB that has a lot bigger mess on his hands these days.
I thought that Woods might play in one tourney before the Masters, just to get the rust off and get through the added media crunch. He’s really stepping into it big time. The Masters is one of the most heavily covered sporting events in the world, and Woods will face extra scrutiny because of the offseason mess that he’s still cleaning up. On the other hand, Augusta National is one of the most serene and staid environments anywhere, and Woods will face far fewer potential disruptions from the gallery there. And you can bet that the Masters and PGA Tour will have some heavy-duty media management ready. The other side is that at the Masters, Woods won’t be the only story line. Golf’s most prestigious tournament won’t be solely focused on him.
The tour needs him more than vice versa. TV ratings always drop off when Woods is not playing. And Woods himself needs to get back doing what he does best, play golf. It gets fans and media focused on the sport, not the marital situation. The only question is what kind of shape Woods’ game actually is in. Golf is a very mental sport, and Woods’ psyche has been through the wringer. But no one ever got better by simply confining himself to a practice range. Focusing on tournament pressure will be the best therapy of all for Woods, who is likely to appreciate his life and achievements much more now.
He came close to destroying his reputation and family (technically, this is still up in the air). He could have been a rich man who could not have looked himself in the mirror. Now he’s taking steps to again becoming the most dominant and admired athlete in golf. For him and golf fans, it should be fun.