For Tiger Woods, Would Masters Be Greatest Career Moment?

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IMarch 29, 2010

Tiger has had his share of incredible, even miraculous victories. He's won tournaments by a record number of strokes and made shots that no one would ever think they would see.

From his 12-stroke victory at the 2007 Masters, the largest margin of victory in the tournament's history, to his 15-stroke victory at the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach, another record, he has had his share of memorable wins.

He's faced the odds, winning the 2006 British Open tournament with the memory of his late father in his mind after Earl Woods lost his battle with cancer in May of that year. His emotions as he hugged his caddie, Steve Williams, reminded sports fans of Michael Jordan breaking down after winning the NBA Finals, thinking of his father.

Tiger has had countless memorable moments from his amateur days all the way to his pro days. He's had his triumphs and he's had his disappointments. If you rooted for him to win or rooted for him to fall on his face, you can't deny that he's done things with a golf club that hadn't ever been seen before in the history of the PGA.

For those fans that rooted for him to fall on his face, this fall from grace is a welcome sight. He's not super-human after all; he's just human. The role model status that most held him to came crashing down during the worst six months of his life.

As he gets ready to make his return to the biggest tournament in the sport, his nerves will be all over the place. What kind of reception will he get? Will his fellow players give him the cold shoulder? Will the PGA Tour fully accept him back?

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A few of those questions may not be answered for some time, but the first of them will be the moment he steps onto the first tee at Augusta. There's no question that boos or a lack of clapping will occur, and believe it that Tiger will notice any and all of the responses he may or may not get.

The biggest question that may linger for all four days, if Tiger survives to Sunday, is if this will be the biggest moment in Tiger's career in the case that he wins. Will this be the biggest win of his illustrious career?

Rick Reilly, after Tiger's Masters win in 1997, wrote in Sports Illustrated's April 1997 issue, "Someday Eldrick Woods, a mixed-race kid with a middle-class background who grew up on a municipal course in the sprawl of Los Angeles, may be hailed as the greatest golfer who ever lived."

Jack Nicklaus said of Tiger after the 1997 Masters, "He's more dominant over the guys he's playing against than I ever was over the ones I played against. He's so long, he reduces the course to nothing. Absolutely nothing."

Alan Shipnuck, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, said, "If Tiger Woods's stunning victory at the 1997 Masters signaled the birth of a cross-cultural icon, his win at last week's PGA Championship served mainly to confirm that he has matured into a golfer for the ages," after Tiger's PGA Championship win in 1999.

His most significant—and arguably most memorable—win came in 2000 at the US Open at Pebble Beach as he toyed with the field over the final two days. John Garrity, a columnist for Sports Illustrated, called Tiger's win in 2000 "the most dominating four-round performance in the history of major-championship golf."

Although those three wins were memorable and ones for the history books, he wasn't coming off six months of drama and revelation into the life that most of us thought was squeaky clean. This will be a tournament like none other in both Tiger's life and possibly the history of the PGA Tour.

There are questions unanswered, questions that may remain unanswered for quite some time. What is known are the opinions of pros that have played practice rounds with Tiger over the last few weeks.

PGA Tour veteran John Cook, one of those who played two practice rounds with Tiger, was asked about his thoughts on how Tiger would do at Augusta.

"From what I've seen in the last three days of ball-striking," Cook told Jeff Shain of the Orlando Sentinel. "First."

Cook also said, "I don't see anybody hitting the ball like he does. There's a lot of other issues for him going on there, but as far as ball-striking goes if he takes it up there, it'll be very difficult to beat him."

That's a revealing comment from another tour pro, the fact that he is of the belief that Tiger will be hard to beat. Will Tiger be stronger than ever? Will he be better than ever?

If those two questions become a resounding "yes" then the Masters' contenders have to be looking over their shoulders and trying to better their game just to be able to stay in the hunt.

But the question at hand is not how the rest of the field will handle Tiger coming back, or even if Tiger is going to be better than he ever has been. The question is whether or not this will be the best win ever by Tiger Woods, if in fact he can pull it off.

The Masters is the PGA's Super Bowl; this is the biggest tournament in golf, the tournament everyone wants to win, and it's the jacket that everyone wants in their closet.

A win puts the champion's name on a list of some of the game's greats like Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, and Byron Nelson—names that will live on in "legendary" status as long as the game is around.

This will not be his biggest win or his biggest moment. For Tiger, this is a win he desperately needs. This is a win that will get his PGA career started on the track to redemption and on the right path to earning back the respect of both the fans and his fellow players.

This may not be the biggest win of his career, but for Tiger it's one that will take him back to his very first win in 1997. It's a chance for Tiger to start all over and do so on the course where it all began.