Drama Builds in 'When Will Tiger Woods Return?' Soap Opera
The annoyance level reached new heights Friday with dueling news stories reporting Woods' plans for returning to golf, both quoting unnamed sources and each contradicting the other.
One report has the sex-scandal plagued golfer making his comeback at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, scheduled for March 25-28 at the Bay Hill Lodge and Club in Orlando, Fla. The other says Woods will return at Augusta National for the Masters, the year's first major championship, in early April.
"Just wait and see," suggested Vijay Singh, playing at this week's CA Championship, a World Golf Championship with an elite international field that, it has been pointed out all week, is missing Tiger Woods.
Although logical, Singh's advice is destined to go unheeded.
The fact Woods was spotted earlier this week at the Isleworth Country Club practice range in Orlando, working with swing coach Hank Haney, suggests something is in the works. Rather than make an announcement that would end all the guessing, Woods continues the self-perpetuating mystery.
So the question persists like "less filling or tastes great?", Bay Hill or Augusta National? Or what about the other rumor, the one where Woods would play in a hit-and-giggle event called the Tavistock Cup the Monday and Tuesday before Bay Hill?
Since no one who apparently knows much of anything is saying, the guessing game has turned into a contact sport.
The good news: Anyone can play.
Returning for Palmer's event at Bay Hill makes sense. The Tavistock Cup does not. The Masters and Augusta National seems perfect.
Theory One: Arnold Palmer's event is run by IMG, the same management company that represents Woods. How convenient.
Also, Woods has won there six times, including the past two. And there's the strong bond between Palmer and Woods for many years.
That's the prime reason an appearance at the Tavistock Cup does not make sense. While the team competition between Isleworth and Lake Nona, the two Orlando country clubs heavy with PGA Tour membership, might make for an easy warm-up -- no media obligations and an invitation-only gallery -- the downside is glaring.
Considering Woods reportedly has recruited former George W. Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in an effort to do damage control on his public image, how smart would it be to upstage Arnold Palmer's event less than five miles away?
Theory Two: Whenever and wherever Woods returns, it is going to be an absolute circus -- except possibly at Augusta National.
The Masters may be the most controlled environment in sports.
A level of sophistication by fans is not only expected but demanded. Spectators guilty of breaking rules -- rules that forbid running or the slightest bit of heckling -- are removed. Also, a limited amount of media are credentialed and the deadline for application has long passed, meaning Woods would avoid the celebrity-journalism news outlets that have feasted on his story.
Although it has been widely assumed Woods would make at least one tournament appearance to knock the rust off before arriving at Augusta National and its famed lightening-fast greens, that might not be as important as it would seem.
As a past champion, Woods can visit the private club as often as he would like for pre-tournament practice rounds -- and never be seen.
That, of course, is pure speculation.