Ever since Thanksgiving people have been wondering when Tiger Woods would get on the golf course again and, most importantly, whether or not he would be ready to tee it up in Augusta come April.
Some (me included) have never wavered in their prediction that Tiger will play in the 2010 Masters. Others have been more non-committal or even suggested that it could be a year or more before we see golf’s most exciting player back on the Tour.
A bevy of reports from this week, taken together, suggest an increasing likelihood that Tiger will be playing for the fifth Green Jacket in what will undoubtedly be the most hyped golf tournament of all time.
First, here every little bit of information you need to know about this year’s Masters, and then I’ll tell you why I am now about 99.9% convinced that Tiger will be teeing it up in Augusta this April.
2010 Masters Quick Preview:
- 2010 Masters Dates: April 5-11
- 2010 Masters Location: Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA (of course)
- 2010 Masters TV Schedule: Opening rounds on ESPN; Weekend Rounds on CBS
- Official Website: 2010 Masters
- StubHub: 2010 Masters Tickets
- RazorGator: 2010 Masters Tickets
Before we get into the specifics about why I think he is going to play, I want to restate the obvious just so we’re all on the same page: if Tiger Woods plays in this April’s Masters, it will instantly become the most hyped and anticipated golf tournament ever. I defy anyone to argue with that statement.
After what has happened over the past few months with not only golf’s biggest star, but the biggest star in all of sports, Tiger’s very public return to his profession will make even his practice rounds that week must-see viewing, even for people who aren’t golf fans.
We know that golf fans will be excited; it’s the Masters. Add Tiger’s return to the mix and you pull in even the more casual golf fans like me.
But what will make this year’s event transcendent is the housewife who couldn’t name one golfer but who will tune in because they followed the Tiger and Elin story on the news and in the tabloids and now want to check out the latest development.
Add to all of this the insanity and ubiquity of modern day sports media, and the level of coverage could reach a Super Bowl pitch.
Of course, this only happens if Tiger comes back and plays, which he has not yet announced that he will do. So why am I, along with so many others, becoming convinced that Tiger is going to be playing for the Green Jacket?
Here are five significant reasons:
1. He is reportedly practicing like a madman again
According to a TMZ report from earlier today, Tiger has returned to the golf course with a vengeance. Here is how they describe his practice session, which allegedly lasted from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm and is pictured, “unstaged”, below.
Tiger Woods is golfing like a man possessed — hitting ball after ball after ball at the golf course near his home in Isleworth … and TMZ has obtained the first unstaged photos of Woods back in action.
We’re told Tiger’s session was uninterrupted — and he seemed completely focused throughout the entire grueling workout.
Considering that no goal drives him more than the numbers 6 and 18 – the Golden Bear’s records for Masters and total Major Championships won, respectively – I feel safe in assuming that he is working towards regaining his form so he can play in the Masters.
2. Hank Haney has been summoned to Orlando
In addition to the reports of Tiger’s day of practice, another interesting bit of news hit the Interwebs today. Sports by Brooks reported that Hank Haney has been summoned to Orlando to help Tiger retool his swing and get ready to resume his golfing career:
After Haney wraps up his responsibilities with The Golf Channel, I was told by a source today that he will travel to Orlando to begin assisting Woods with his golf comeback.
Why would Tiger bring Hank down to Orlando if he weren’t pretty serious about getting his groove back, and quickly?
3. Haney already making Augusta plans
Sports by Brooks is also reporting today that Haney has already made arrangements to be in Augusta for the Masters from April 6th through the 12th.
Now, in and of itself, this could mean nothing. Haney is one of the most famous swing coaches ever so it is reasonable to assume that he might attend golf’s greatest annual event whether he’s working with Tiger or not; but, coupled with the reports of Haney’s impending arrival in Orlando to work with Tiger, it does at least lend a smidgen more credence to the expectation that Tiger will return this April.
An exchange from today’s Bill Simmons-Rick Reilly podcast made me even more convinced that Tiger will do whatever is necessary to play in the 2010 Masters.
I did not actually listen to the podcast, but I read Ty Duffy’s assessment of it at The Big Lead. The part where Simmons and Reilly discuss Tiger’s surgically repaired right knee is what hit me.
They both agreed his surgical repaired knee will be the determining factor for whether he passes Nicklaus.
Reilly: “The problem is that knee. He’s now had four operations on one knee.”
Simmons: “This guy had total reconstructive surgery on his knee…In golf you’re just pushing off the same parts of your legs, time after time after time. It’s like pressure over time and he’s already had some structural failure.”
For most of Tiger’s career, we’ve all viewed him as something more than human. His amazing feats on the golf course have compelled us to do this because, well, he has achieved things and done things that no other human who has ever played golf has even come close to achieving or doing.
The dominance of his first Masters victory. His ridiculous chip shot. His U.S. Open victory on one leg. His amazing overall consistency.
When Tiger enters a tournament we expect greatness and we expect him to win. We never, ever view him as vulnerable.
But now he is, and the knee is a major reason why. Reilly and Simmons hit the nail head with their comments.
I expect that in the back of his mind, maybe even in the forefront, Tiger is thinking something similar. He is no longer the invincible spring chicken who came storming out of Stanford dead set on breaking every golf record. He is older, more brittle, and will not recover from future injuries as quickly.
Tiger proved at the U.S. Open a few years ago that he has the mental and physical toughness to fight through pain and still win. At some point, however, especially if the chronically bad knee deteriorates, Tiger could – could – be in a position where no level of mental or physical toughness can overcome the knee.
His injury issues are not going to get better with age and he is still four Major victories away from tying Jack. Like women have biological clocks, Tiger probably has a similar feeling of wanting to achieve his goals while his body will still let him. Passing up a shot at the Masters while he still has his youth, strength, and health does not move him any closer to his goals.
For someone who has spent his entire life being driven by said goals, I can’t imagine him passing on this opportunity to potentially get one Major step closer to achieving them.
5. Tiger is “probable” for Bay Hill
Lastly, no one expects Tiger to make his first tournament appearance at Augusta. He will undoubtedly want to play in at least one Tour event as a warm up.
Another report from Sports by Brooks, which was posted yesterday, posits a few reasons why Tiger showing up to play at Arnold Palmer’s tournament in Bay Hill is looking more likely. The tournament is a few weeks away and a few weeks before the Masters, which would allow it to serve perfectly as Tiger’s official return and warm-up.
To sum everything up, no one can be 100% sure yet what Tiger will do. If we have learned anything over the last four months it is that we don’t really know anything when it comes to Tiger. However, there are many legitimate reasons for optimism if you are hoping to see Tiger at Augusta this April.
And if it happens, get ready for a media circus and a level of hype that will not only be unparalleled in the annals of golf, but that just might trump the build up and hype for any non-Super Bowl sporting event that we have ever seen.
* – Tiger Woods in Green Jacket photo credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images via Bleacher Report
* – Tiger Woods practicing photo credit: TMZ
Midwest Sports Fans (MSF) Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that MSF makes a small percentage of anything purchased upon a click-through. That said, MSF only writes about stories that we believe will interest our readers, and we only link to and endorse sites and services that we would use or have used ourselves. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”