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THE TIGER IS BACK!
After five months of deafening silence, Tiger Woods is coming back at the Masters to reclaim his title
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor
The long suspected rumor was confirmed early Tuesday morning as Tiger Woods will make his return to golf at a place where he made history 13 years ago--The Masters.
And with that, the eyes of the world will be in Augusta, Georgia, from April 8-11 as Woods begins perhaps the most anticipated comeback since Michael Jordan announced his return to basketball in 1995.
The public has barely seen him since his November 25 car accident that opened the door into his sex scandals four months ago. It was as if every new day brought a new mistress and some salacious angle that seemed worse than the last.
His only appearance was a press conference on February 19 where he apologized to his wife for his infidelities and blamed himself for not holding himself to a higher standard.
Is this comeback bigger than Kobe Bryant or Michael Vick?? Considering that Bryant only missed several games because of court appearances in 2003-2004 and Vick's trangressions only affected the United States, the answer is unquestionably yes.
But now that he is back, what do we make of his return? Unlike Bryant or Vick, he committed no crime except breaking his marriage vows. He has lost major sponsors except for Nike.
So where does Woods stand today? And who is he now to the world that marveled at his talent and drive to be the best at his craft?
Who is he to the Black community that used him as an example of progress in a field where only few had even ventured?
These are questions that have relatively simple answers. Woods was driven solely to be best golfer ever, now his focus has changed--according to his press conference--to being a better person at peace with himself and his values.
He has recommitted himself to Buddhism and after participating in counseling and therapy, he reenters the public consciousness a different man that he left it. A chance to rebuild his image after it became destroyed and warped by his actions and people's reactions.
The world remains jaded but mindful that they celebrate athletes not for what they are but what they do. His press conference drew worldwide attention as people stopped to watch and realized that the superhuman Woods is merely a flawed man like all of us.
To the Black community, he remains an estranged member. Distant because he has chosen to embrace his multiple ethnicities and not openly court the Black community, but someone to rally behind because they see him still as their own.
For many, he is the reason they care about golf. The reason why Sundays are more than just church and family dinners--if he wins a major championship or tournament, everyone talks about it Monday and Tuesday at the barbershop or local restaurant.
Woods' return will be his first at a golf tournament since November 15 when he won the Australian Masters and his first at a PGA Tour event since September 28.
And as many have said, it's a perfect site. It's where he burst on the worldwide stage at 21, winning the Masters in record fashion. It's where he won his fourth consecutive major at 25.
The golf club's private membership and their ability to restrict access will allow Woods to focus on only the accredited media in attendance. The gallery of fans are known for their sympathy and respectful nature.
Still, it will be a circus of attention when Woods finally returns to his job that first week in April. When he tees off on April 8, he'll have the eyes of the world watching his every stroke, facial expression and idle chatter.
For one of sport's most focused participants, it will be the ultimate test of him being able to focus on his craft--the sport he's known since he was born.
One final question remains. Can he win? Now that would make this comeback even sweeter in the eyes of fans that want to see him earn redemption as quickly as he lost his good graces.
The world has to wait two weeks to find out. But the countdown has begun for Tiger Woods to make his real return to the public--one where he gets from behind the podium and reclaims his job as a golfer and athlete with his action.