The Biggest Story Ever
The Tibetan spiritual leader only recently discovered who Tiger Woods was after being asked about him in an interview.
We can only imagine his reaction around the water cooler at The Office of His Holiness when the news hit today that Woods is returning to golf.
“Somebody, please, what is the Masters?”
The news that Woods will return in three weeks at Augusta National was beamed around the world with such force that it’s a wonder it hasn’t knocked satellites off their orbits.
The Tiger Woods story is a worldwide fascination because his golf will be about so much more than sport now.
Woods may not be bigger than the Masters, but his story is.
Woods may not be bigger than golf, but his story is.
Woods now towers over every player and storyline in the history of the game.
That’s because people who don’t understand or follow the game care more about how his story turns out than they’ll care how this Masters turns out.
The Masters is known for its spectacular finishes, but this one will be remembered for the spectacle of its start. And we’re not talking about Jack Nicklaus’ and Arnold Palmer’s ceremonial first tee shots Thursday morning. If this was any tournament but the Masters, Jack and Arnie might need helmets to protect themselves from the stampede that follows the opening of the front gates.
Ernie Els accused Woods of being selfish when he staged his public apology during the Accenture Match Play Championship. There will be players who see the same trait in Woods’ decision to return at the Masters, where he will be more protected from entertainment media and unruly fans who could make his return something ugly.
“Whenever he comes back, it's going to draw a lot of attention to that tournament and the focus is going to be on him coming back,” Stricker told media at Doral last week. “I don't know if Augusta would like that to happen, you know? To turn it into Tiger's comeback instead of the Masters tournament itself.”
Stricker is Woods’ friend, but he’s right.
If Woods doesn’t win the Masters, it might take an incredible finish to make anyone remember this Masters as anything more than Tiger’s return.
The curiosity over how Woods will respond to the challenge of rebuilding his life and reputation reaches beyond the drama framed between the ropes of a golf tournament. That's why his story is bigger than the Masters. He is Lord Jim come to life, novelist Joseph Conrad’s shamed protagonist seeking heroic redemption after a scarring betrayal of duty. Though the young British seaman at the heart of that classic story wins back his honor with the ultimate sacrifice, the story ends badly for him. The compelling lure of Tiger’s tale is the possibility that it ends well for him.
Though Woods is certain to be the target of cruel stupidity, there are millions of folks who will root for his redemption, who will eagerly encourage a man’s sincere desire to be something better.
For some, this is only about golf, about the scores Woods will post.
For others, it’s about emotionally investing in the journey Woods is about to resume, taking the steps with him because that is what being a fan means to them.
Woods is finally about to re-embark on golf’s greatest journey, the pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 professional major championship victories. Woods has four to go to tie the mark, five to surpass it.
While Woods doesn’t owe anyone outside his inner circle an apology, the idea that he’ll reach outside it anyway could change the nature of the journey. Devoted fans want to like the stars they’re following. They want to like the men who break sport’s most esteemed records. It’s the difference between making the journey something to celebrate or something to dread.
Woods changes the nature of the journey by inviting us along in some meaningful way.
Millions will be tuned in when Woods makes his start at the Masters, many of them to see if they like the guy who’s coming back.
Woods’ story will be bigger than the Masters, and stories thrive on the nature of the characters who bring them to life.
Will Woods be a protagonist or antagonist?
The answer begins at the Masters.
After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...
Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner
On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...
Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.
After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.
Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.
A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray
Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call
PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.
At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.
“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”
Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.
Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.
“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.
Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park
PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.
Laura Davies won the day.
It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.
Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.
Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.
For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.
In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.
“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”
At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.
“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”
Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.
“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.
With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.
“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”
Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.
“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”
She also relished showing certain fans something.
“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.
Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.
In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.
Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.
“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.
After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.
“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”
Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.
In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.
“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”
And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.
Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill
ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.
The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?
“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”
And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.
After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.
“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”