PANAMA CITY, Panama - Even in Central America, at an event with no connection to him whatsoever, three of the most powerful executives in golf could not escape the spectre of Tiger Woods.
Speaking at a news conference Thursday at the Latin America Amateur Championship, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, and USGA executive director Mike Davis were all lauding the growth of their co-founded event when, after 16 minutes, they faced an unusual question, at least given the circumstances.
Who will be the first one amongst you three to hand Tiger Woods his next trophy?
The question prompted cackling in the room and some shifty glances between the three chiefs assembled on stage.
Rather quickly, Slumbers pointed out: "I believe the Masters is first."
"Yeah, I'll have the first chance," Payne agreed, laughing. "I'll have the first chance."
But then Slumbers, who had previously been discussing grow-the-game efforts, appeared to take the question to heart, perhaps seeing a connection between the topics.
"You know, if I could just say," he began, "I think it's wonderful to see Tiger back playing. When he played in the event just before Christmas (the Hero World Challenge), I turned on the TV to watch an event I probably wouldn't have watched had he not been playing, and I think it's great for the game."
Back to the original question, Woods hasn't won a U.S. Open since 2008, an Open since 2006, or a Masters since 2005.