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Can Tiger Take the Masters?
April 5, 2018  | By Gerald Jordan
 

Imagine Sofia Vergara’s character in Modern Family repeating “Tiger, Tiger, Tiger” in rapid-fire succession and you’ll get a clear picture of the excitement this week on the Golf Channel and in and around August National Golf Club. It’s as though broadcasters have a loop that repeats Tiger Woods’ name every 90 seconds. 

Tiger Woods is not only playing in his first Masters tournament since 2015, but he appears to be healthy (coming off a series of back surgeries, the most recent of which finally must have worked) and is playing his best golf in years. No tournaments won this year, but he flirted with top finishes at Valspar and Bay Hill. He has won this tournament four times, but none since 2005. 

Each practice round has brought a tidal surge of oohs and aahs, followed closely by reporters asking every competitor about the return of he who is known worldwide by simply one name. His fellow competitors have been fairly gracious about it. I mean, who doesn’t want to labor in obscurity on the PGA tour only to get a glimmer of national TV time and get asked to speak about another player.
 
Fred Couples, whose easy manner attracts microphones like a magnet, marveled at Tiger’s 300-plus-yard drive after a Monday practice round, allowing as how those who paid (galleries) couldn’t have enjoyed it more than those who didn’t (Couples and the group with Tiger).

A lengthy chip-in from the practice green Monday ignited a roar worthy of Sunday from the Amen Corner. 

Tiger is – for the moment – back, and the gallery approves. 

A golfer so dominant in his prime that at one point the only question was how many major tournaments he’d win is now in his mature years. Fourteen majors and holding. And it could very well be that the duel golf fans and TV networks have so long wanted might arise now with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in their forties. Wisdom dictates that age is nothing but a number. Golf dictates that so is double-bogey.
 
This cruel form of self-abuse called golf is primed for some excitement. Even if the old guys falter over the four days, or fail to make the cut, some young guns are poised to entertain. Jordan Spieth already has won the Masters and two other majors. Sergio Garcia – finally – won at Augusta last year in a playoff. Rickie Fowler (right) has played well this year and could cut to the front of the line Sunday. Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, and a big chunk of the 87 players in the field underscore the fact that no one is going to lie down and give this tournament to Tiger.
 
It’s Tiger, though, whom the networks are betting on to bring back audiences comprising folks who wouldn’t know which end of a golf club to grip and who think that an albatross is a bad thing.
 
The 7,435 yards of emerald fairways and azalea-accented boundaries at Augusta National are ready to entertain company as the season’s first major tees off at 8:30 a.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, with mere mortal TV coverage from 3 to 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Several streaming services will feature all-day coverage. CBS gets the coverage from 3-7 p.m. ET Saturday and 2-7 p.m. ET Sunday. Jim Nantz already is lowering his baritone pipes to suit the tone and tradition of Augusta National Golf Club. It’s a special time.
 
 
 
 
 
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