The Loop

Even at Augusta, no guarantees for Woods

March 17, 2010

The inevitable assortment of hypotheses, debates, and diatribes about Tiger Woods' decision to return to golf at the Masters have spilled out in the day since the player's announcement. A prevailing sentiment: not the ideal way to return to competition after a four-month layoff, but sensible enough when your layoff is the result of a well-publicized sex scandal and you need a tightly-controlled environment to help soften your re-entry.

Which is all true. Knowing what we do about Augusta National and the Masters, where even the occasional overzealous golf announcer has been asked to stay home, it's highly unlikely that the TMZs and RadarOnlines of the world will get anywhere near the media center. But as has already been pointed out by others, that hardly guarantees they can be kept off the grounds.

Though widely recognized as one of the toughest tickets in sports, the Masters is not an impossible get, and especially not if you're willing to part with enough cash. One of the first e-mails to pop into my inbox after Woods' announcement on Tuesday was an advertisement for "Masters Packages" starting at $1,599.

"Incredible packages, unbeatable value," the offer said. Nowhere did it say anything about the tabloid media not being eligible.

So imagine the scenario: Woods holes out on No. 3, then is left with the usual wait on the tee at the epic, par-3 fourth, where a generous grandstand is perched to the right. Time was when the uncomfortable part of that hole was contemplating the wind shifting over a 240-yard approach shot. Now it may be some clever fellow in the crowd, either there on his own or on behalf of something-or-other-dot-com, who now feels the need to seize the moment.

At Augusta, the odds of it escalating beyond a mere awkward exchange are slim. But it may be enough to remind Woods of what awaits the rest of the season.

-- *Sam Weinman