Woods’ safest return is on golf’s biggest stage: Masters

A controlled environment would benefit Tiger Woods if he made his return at the Masters. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

The controlled environment at the Masters would benefit Tiger Woods. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

In the past several days, we have read reports that Tiger Woods plans to return to golf at the Masters; that he hasn’t decided when to return; that he is taking lessons from his swing coach (that’s golf, not women); that he is back living in the same home with his wife; that said wife Elin is happy, or torn, or possibly both; that on the night of the accident (involving an SUV, a fire hydrant and an oak tree), Elin gave police two Vicodin bottles that belonged to Woods; that the ambulance crew that night suspected domestic violence; that Woods has the lowest “Q Score” of any athlete since Kobe Bryant; and that he has hired former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to handle his public relations.

At some point soon, I’m sure Fleischer will either seek pain killers himself or ask Woods to create some minor diversion that Fleischer is more accustomed to handling,  like invading Iraq.

As probably the single biggest athlete in the world today, it follows that Woods has created the biggest circus. Nobody should be surprised by what has happened because this story is the mother of all pileups. It involves everything — whether actual or rumored — that commands our attention these days: Sports, celebrity, sex, marriage, violence, porn, drugs and conspiracies.

So where is the best place for Woods to seek peace?

That’s easy. Augusta National.

You won't find reporters from any of these publications inside the gates.

You won't find reporters from any of these publications inside the gates.

I’m not suggesting Woods  return to golf soon (although that seems apparent). Nor should he expect that when he does return, the world immediately will give him a warm embrace. Fact is, even if you believe his marriage is his personal business, that whole universal-admiration thing likely is gone forever.

But golf is unlike any sport in at least one way: The

Ari Fleischer is used to putting out fires. His resume: George Bush, Mark McGwire, the BCS.

Ari Fleischer is used to putting out fires. His resume: George Bush, Mark McGwire, the BCS.

biggest event is the least circus-like.

The Masters is not held in a public venue. It is held in a private club.

Augusta National is the secret society of sports. If CIA agents wore green jackets, we never would be able to tell members of the two apart.

If Woods makes his return at the Masters, he won’t have to deal with taunts or lampoons from obnoxious galleries. Understand, golf fans in general are sedate. They applaud on cue, like trained seals, only after somebody lowers the, “Hush, y’all,” sign.

Masters crowds are the extreme of this. Every badge has a number. Every number has a name. If a fan gets out of hand, he never will see that badge again. That’s even assuming we ever find the body.

The Masters isn’t the Super Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game. Media credentials aren’t given to anybody with a blog or a Facebook page. E! and People and TMZ won’t be allowed onto the grounds. Or into news conferences. Or remotely close to the backdoor of the clubhouse, where the waiter who brought Woods his grilled chicken on wheat toast can be secretly interviewed.

In any other sport, the advice to Woods would be to slowly ease his way back into public life. If he pitched for the Braves, I would suggest a Tuesday night road game against the Marlins. In golf, fly to Atlanta and drive east on I-20. The Masters is the most controlled atmosphere in sports.

Outside the gates at Augusta, the mocking continues. Shock jock Howard Stern held a $100,000 Tigers Woods Mistresses Beauty Pageant last week, complete with a question-answer period and bikini contest. The season’s first episode of  “South Park” this week will feature Woods making his public confession on infidelity. Tabloids continue to dumpster dive.

Woods has brought Fleischer on board. The former White House spokesman for President Bush started a sports-communications company. We can assume he’s not opposed to a challenge, given his recent clients include Mark McGwire and the BCS.

Woods never will be viewed by everybody the same again. Those who count “Q Score” will tell you that even Bryant’s star power has come back only 60 percent since sexual-assault charges. How Woods handles that will determine whether he returns to dominance in golf. At some point, he’ll hear the taunts. But not inside the gates of Augusta National. Golf’s biggest stage is the safest one.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

87 comments Add your comment

mmgtfan

March 13th, 2010
6:33 pm

Reid Adair

March 13th, 2010
6:43 pm

That’s a very good argument for the Masters being his return. Anyone gets even close to verbally abusive with him there, and they’ll be gone. Not just this year – forever.

kristen

March 13th, 2010
6:59 pm

great article schultz. i just don’t see tiger skipping the masters, this is the perfect venue for his return. i hope tiger goes back to golf and play at the masters. i really don’t care about his personal life but many people do especially the tabloid media. tiger has become the new paris hilton for the tabloids, because of the revenue he brings to these stupid publications. i think tiger playing the masters will be a great first step in rebuilding his image as a golfer and not a tabloid darling.

"Chef" Tim Dix

March 13th, 2010
7:02 pm

He’ll be shielded in Augusta, and yes I’ve changed my tune on where to return. the Chef’s best guess is the rulers of the tourney and Tiger have much in common.

Noel

March 13th, 2010
7:08 pm

Great Article? Aren’t they all the same? One new sentence, a veiled reference to the dalliances, a sarcastic bow to the low popularity, a nod at he will never be the same and an innuendo or two with comparisons to McGuire, Kobe et al.

Al! Your better than this gimme something new. Here’s a tip – his golf MIGHT be better than ever because he is driven by the doubt of others – his marraige MIGHT just come back because he is driven by the doubt of others – he MIGHT just make more money than before because he is driven by the doubt of others! I’m just saying… MIGHT! :)

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

March 13th, 2010
7:14 pm

Well, if the women at the Masters will just wear Mother Hubbard dresses and keep the makeup off, Tiger might stand a chance.

All I know is Tiger isn’t the kind to paint a mascot’s a$$ and call it white. Or talk about how old and sick he is. And that’s good enough for me.

Worm

March 13th, 2010
7:22 pm

I can already hear the hecklers at the first “uncontrolled” event..Tiger, You starting on the front or back today, how many holes are you playing tonight, be careful driving-there’s a fire hydrant on the left side of the fairway…etc.etc.

Jeff Schultz

March 13th, 2010
8:18 pm

Thanks Reid.

Jeff Schultz

March 13th, 2010
8:20 pm

Thanks Kristen. Tiger Woods, Paris Hilton — interesting comparison. I give Tiger a little more credit for having some talent, though.

Lanny Simons

March 13th, 2010
8:34 pm

Great article, Jeff. I’ve been thinking the same thing regarding the setting in Augusta. If the word goes out that reporters are not to ask about the scandal, any reporter who does so risks getting “bikini waxed.”

Yeah, the universal-admiration is gone for sure. About Kobe, I’ve never thought of him the same way since the scandal, but then I’m only at best a casual NBA fan. Based on what people have been saying during this scandal, I assumed his Q was higher now than ever. Thanks for debunking that urban myth.

BIRDDAWGONE

March 13th, 2010
8:35 pm

SOUTH PARK THIS WEDNESDAY–sorry Tiger, but funny is still funny.

TASTELESS IS A TWO WAY STREET

mike fleissner

March 13th, 2010
8:39 pm

I am a golf fan so I look forward to his return. I hope he attains atonement to his wife and family. I believe his apology was sincere and to the right people. It was obviously part of a 12 step regimen. I followed for the first time tabloid and gossip “journalism” for this story and I wonder: Do they ever name or not pay a source? The only solid evidence of his infidelity is his own admission. The rest is gossip garbage.

Brenda

March 13th, 2010
8:52 pm

I cant wait to see this faker and liar on the course. I hope no one cheers for his sorry a$$ now that he has been exposed as a complete bullshytting con artist. I wonder how tiger would have felt if his wife took 12 different schongs over the last couple of years?

freaking pervert

Ameer

March 13th, 2010
9:02 pm

I believe that the people who are responsible for making South Park are just making things a lot worse by trivializing the unfortunate circumstances that has befallen Tiger and his family. Remember folks, they have 2 little kids that will have to bear this burden as well as they grow up. By making jokes of another’s unfortunate circumstances should not be tolerated by society.
These people like the producers of South Park, Howard Stern etc. should not be allowed to profit from other people’s misfortune. Someone should get even with the likes of people like these by making their lives as well as their families very miserable, just so they know how it feels.

godless heathen

March 13th, 2010
9:03 pm

And since golf isn’t a real sport, he won’t have to pass a drug test.

Michael McClure

March 13th, 2010
9:10 pm

Schultz I guess this article is all about you. Tiger had and has his problems we all know this. He will have a long and difficult road throughout his life thanks in part to you the media. But I have to look at Bill Clinton and now with thanks to the media he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. And we all must worship Al Gore the worst excuse for a Tennessee politican since mankind. I think of the word fake here. But no Fat Albert never strayed, not enough money in the world could persuade a wonderful lady of the night, besides Tipper had too much of a high to pass up. Let’s get one thing straight here scibe Tiger did it and let’s get on with it. The media aren’t saints are you? Let’s play golf now! Your article or half of it is trash. Hey what if Tiger wins the Masters? Oh crap….what do we say now. The course was designed for him…the greens were gut for him. This sounds like one of those stupid Atlanta reality shows….Go for the Green Tiger.

4Jacks

March 13th, 2010
9:11 pm

Sure it would be the best Venue for Tiger to start in, as one word and you are gone. It is still Tiger trying to control everything. He has no respect for the game, his wife, his children, his sponsers. As to the public he owes us nothing, although I did not beleive his apology was truly heartfelt. He is just sorry he got caught, because it is always about “him”. Oh, by the way, if this woman takes this classless brat back, then she gives new meaning to airheads and/or golddiggers, God help the children. Wish someone with some real character had his talent, someone that would at least have the appreciation to understand what position he carries and what a positive example he could or could have been to many. Hell, maybe he is just that stupid.

Bob Horner stayed hurt

March 13th, 2010
9:18 pm

I’m thinking Brenda would be going for $500 million divorce settlement…????? gosh 12 schlongs…when you say it like it cuts deep…..I couldn’t forgive that…

mike

March 13th, 2010
9:20 pm

One thing about it, you haters will never possess Tiger’s skill and he did not rob, kill or do anything that was illegal. He did what most of you only wish you could do. If you don’t like the Ole Tiger don’t watch him play golf. The Master’s needs Tiger worst than he needs them.

Bubba2

March 13th, 2010
9:38 pm

Tiger only cares for Tiger. He is only sorry he got caught. I admire his golfing ability, but hope the public does not cut the cheater any slack.

joe

March 13th, 2010
9:39 pm

4Jacks – someone did…Jack Nicklaus

SowegaDawg

March 13th, 2010
9:42 pm

Tiger’s so called remorse is only for getting caught. We’ll see how “mentally strong” he really is when he plays an event that’s not tightly controlled, but my guess is that day will be in the distant future. I watch him play just to pull against him and love to see him get beat.-that’s when the “real” Tiger comes out.

Ira Siegel

March 13th, 2010
9:45 pm

He did do something illegal. He hired prostitutes. Not legal except in Nevada last I heard. He didn’t restrict his prostitution usage to just Nevada. He had 14 mistresses. No doubt there were countless ‘dalliances’ and pay for sex episodes that haven’t been reported. We’ve just seen the tip of the Tiger Woods’ serial cheating acts.

Jeff Newton

March 13th, 2010
9:47 pm

There are no golf fans at Augusta National.

Only Patrons.

4Jacks

March 13th, 2010
9:49 pm

Joe, you are correct sir, my apologies. “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio” Wish we had more Jack’s and Joe’s, and less Tiger’s & McGuire’s. I am afraid that most people under 35 or so, just do not understand “real class”. Sorry younger generation, just MHO.

Captain Midnight

March 13th, 2010
10:28 pm

To hell with Tiger. Has anyone seen my Jack Daniels?

MattyB

March 13th, 2010
11:08 pm

Jeff,
Not quite sue how long I’ve been reading your columns (and now blogs), quite a while safe to say, but this was absolutely one of the better entries. It’s great writers such as yourself that translate the cerebral vagaries into conscious, entertaining commonalities for all to enjoy!

brit

March 13th, 2010
11:18 pm

yes it’s true tiger did wrong…we all make mistakes and we learn from our mistakes..tiger has the platform to be an example and a role model whether he likes it or not..it doesn’t matter if his speech was heartfelt or not..the truth is in the actions…i supported tiger before this scandal and i will support him again after the scandal because everyone deserves a second chance..role models are supposed to set examples not to act as GOD..so of course role models makes mistakes..tiger now has the chance to change his, if you want to call it character..i support tiger because of his skill and personality..however i won’t support him ever again if he strays one more time and i don’t care if he is the greatest ever..sure it’s true private lives should be kept private but tiger has once again made a promise to believe in him…if he wants anybody to support him ever again he should keep that promise

Grumpy

March 13th, 2010
11:22 pm

I’m just glad I finally got a Masters badge. I love a good circus.

Terrible Truth

March 13th, 2010
11:34 pm

Who’da thunk that arrogant, philandering mouth breather would “fix” his marriage in time for the first Major of the year? Incredible coincidence.

Bob Horner stayed hurt

March 13th, 2010
11:40 pm

Terrible Truth ….good post…you made me laugh…NO WAY he’s a no show at Augusta…..

KenDog

March 14th, 2010
12:03 am

The most interesting part of this is how CBS will handle it. Still cautious from the infamous “bikini wax” comment of a few years ago, they will be truly challenged to cover Tiger as only a golfer competing for a major championship. However, to try to sweep all of this under the rug during their televised coverage would be absurd. It will have to be acknowledged and discussed, and it will be a distraction from the world’s greatest golf tournament. Yes, their will be no press credentials handed out to E! and TMZ, and Steven Colbert won’t be doing any humorous pieces from just outside the Augusta National gates. But it will be huge part of the week, and Tiger is going to find out that there is nowhere he can hide. Good luck Ari, and be sure to bring all the Rolaids that you can pack….

Bob Horner stayed hurt

March 14th, 2010
12:13 am

KenDog..CBS will do as Augusta says……I’m telling you now…it will be the “elephant in the room…” I agree w/ you…it will be interesting…but boring…it will be swept under the rug….CBS will focus on golf…not Tiger…call me crazy…but that’s my opinion….

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Conyers Golfer

March 14th, 2010
3:40 am

I agree with last post…..CBS will do as Augusta National says. Secondly, this edition of the masters
will be no different that any other as far as how the tournament is run, except security will be tighter. The winner could be any “unknown” or a player who is not a favorite to win. I don`t think it will be Tiger because he has not played competitively since last fall.

LJ

March 14th, 2010
6:01 am

Wonder how Tiger’s going to react when they holler “IN THE HOLE”?

AugustaFan

March 14th, 2010
6:30 am

Jeff, I hope when Tiger comes back he either refuses to hold a press conference or restricts his participation to golf questions. The fun for me will be watching the collective heads of sports writers explode. They are not at all interested in his golf.

Billy Payne

March 14th, 2010
6:33 am

Mr. Schultz we are revoking your privileges to come on the grounds here at Augusta National for your comment that we hide bodies. You may watch the tour na mint with Ben Wright and Gary McCord on TV.

Billy Payne

March 14th, 2010
6:35 am

AugustaFan….AMEN!

jim

March 14th, 2010
6:42 am

does anyone have to have morals to play sports. people get real

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Poured myself a vodka

March 14th, 2010
7:07 am

Tiger’s not going to win. He’ll not even be in the top ten. You can’t lay off golf that long. Nobody can.

He’s through. Golf relies on an unimaginably strange convolution of mind and body. A putter is not a driver. Most golfers can get on the green in two. That comes early and often to thousands and thousands of weekend golfers. So what. Few golfers can then putt. It involves two different sets of skills. Two different approaches to the hand-eye continuum, (if I may be so pedantic).

Golf is such a weird, sexy sport, that while I was watching Tiger apologize, I felt like I was in a Fellini movie.

southside

March 14th, 2010
8:08 am

Good article. Woods is to golf what Babe Ruth was to baseball. The press was as compliant for the Babe as it was for Woods. Both men were just like 90% of great athletes in every sport arrogant, selfish, and human.

xl.dawg

March 14th, 2010
8:19 am

The point is that Tiger will not be ready to play at Augusta. He will have to play in some type of competitive enviroment before Augusta. Why do you think he sets his schedule the way he does to peak during the Majors? He will play somewhere else first. Most likely the Tavistock Cup with nothing but the Club Members hanging around and no press. Golf at the Masters is about perfection and without practice and competition he cannot win. If he is not ready he will not play. We all know he will play so Augusta will not be the first venue.

Michael

March 14th, 2010
8:30 am

Woods made a shrewd move hiring Ari Fleischer. He was so much fun to watch during the Bush years, and is probably the best liar I’ve ever seen. Only about 2 % of the stuff he said during press briefings was actually true, but even when his lies were exposed he’d just keep telling them as if nothing had happened. He’d just keep repeating the lies until he wore everyone down and they accepted his version of the “truth”.

Clay

March 14th, 2010
8:35 am

Ameer, maybe Tiger should have remembered that “they have two little children who have to bear this burden …” He did bring this on himself, right?

Tiger had the whole world (especially the sports media) kissing his butt. Now he doesn’t and we’re supposed to be offended that he is being poked fun at? Sorry, I choose to laugh at the satire, not be offended.

Clay

March 14th, 2010
8:42 am

Michael, do you really think Fleischer could have gotten away with telling 98% lies, with the White House Press Corp taping every word? Dummy.

The Ghost Of Bobby Jones

March 14th, 2010
8:46 am

Xl–Tiger played a few rounds in Augusta last Sunday–But no one will tell you this–I’m just a low life caddy-but saw him with my own two eyes. See you April 5th.

stayaway tigre

March 14th, 2010
9:03 am

Try to bury your ego for a week and respect the tournament Tiger. You are not bigger than the game.

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