They tee off early in this slice of Americana, the Masters Golf Tourney at Augusta National.
There are so many storylines starting with this first round, and the spotlight is not on the hottest golfer this weekend, but rather the one who has been hurt.
Yes this tourney will be about the greatness of the young gun Rory McIlroy, going for his 3rd major in a row.. It will be to track the growth of another young star, Jimmie Walker. It will be to see if Jason Day is ready to make the jump and win a major. We will watch to see if Bubba Watson and his long game can defend the title. Or if Jordan Spieth is ready for stardom.
That would be a golf bag full of great stories, but no, all that is surpassed by Tiger Woods return, once again, from the calamities of his life. And it is also about whether “Lefty can get it Right”, Phil Mickelson’s attempt to stop the erosion of a great career, with just 2-top 10-finishes in his last 33-tourneys since winning the British Open a couple of years back..
For Tiger, stalled in his chase of Jack Nicholson’s mighty grand slam record, his career knocked off track by a fire-hydrant and a messy divorce; a forever stained personal life because of his philandering ways, blockaded by injury after injury, and detoured by coaching and club changes.
Some will say his life as an icon forever ended, when the lies in his life surfaced, that Thanksgiving weekend. Women, strippers, porn stars, waitresses, blonde trophy prizes. End of marriage, end of endorsements, end of image.
But the real end was on the course. The broken leg, the Achillies injury, the calf problems, the injured elbow, and then the back surgery.
The stare and glare may still be there; the fire still burns, but that seems all that is left.
9-weeks ago he walked off the course at Torrey Pines, his game broken, his body battered, and his spirit doused. He hasn’t played in 9-weeks, though he shot some decent practice rounds in Georgia leading up to today.
Since January 2014, Tiger Woods has played just 10-tournaments in 15-months, has completed only three. There was a 35th place finish, a 69th finish, a round of 82, and a flurry of missed cuts, and withdraws because of bad aches and pains, and bad scorecards.
He carried the sport for decades, as he tees off in his 20th Masters. He was good for the tour, brilliant for television, and a salesman extraordinaire. But all has since changed.
The European invasion no longer feared him on the course. He was mocked off the course for his messy marital affairs. He lost legions of fans and millions of dollars from virtually all his sponsors. No one was willing to buy the lie of the man, family man, great golfer, when they found out who he really was, a sex addict, a cheat,and a condescending creep. The old ‘money and power corrupt syndrome’ had overtaken him.
Now we watch the golfer to wonder if he can make a rush back, recapture his game and his celebrity status. Respect maybe for the comeback of the player, but doubts the rest of the world will ever respect him, the man.
In a strange sort of way, he has become a sympathy case, an example of one who had it all, and lost it. Is his game gone forever? Will he ever remake his image? Does anyone feel sorry for him? Is this more of a pity party than rooting for a pro?
It will be a fun four days at Augusta beginning this morning. Watching the leaderboard, and wondering what kind of statement weekend it is for Tiger Woods. A jumping off point for a comeback, or a fall-off-the face of the earth weekend, end of a career episode, if he shoots horrible golf again.
So many storylines to pay attention to, great golfers coming, and watching a once-great golfer too.