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Masters Update: Tiger Woods Returns To Golf

Andy Reistetter@GolfWriter59Analyst IApril 5, 2010

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 05:  Tiger Woods hits a shot during a practice round prior to the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2010 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Featured Columnist Andy Reistetter is on site this week at The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

"I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don't know when that day will be," Tiger Woods said back on Feb. 19 at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse.

That "day" for the record book in championship competition is this Thursday, April 8.

Tiger Woods made his first public appearance playing golf at Augusta National this morning.

His last competitive round was Nov. 15 at the JBWere Masters in Australia.

That was almost five months ago, 141 days to be exact.

Tiger Woods has officially returned to golf.

An 8 a.m. scheduled practice round with United States Presidents Cup Captain Fred Couples was enough of an incentive for this golf patron to be on the road at 4 a.m. on his way to the enchanted land of The Masters.

After all, Couples has won his last three starts and three of his first four on the Champions Tour.

My age role model is as much a competitor at the Masters this year as the rusty Woods or even the defending champion Angel Cabrera.

Joining the twosome at the seventh green by 9 a.m. and walking the remaining 11 holes plus the 2 p.m. pre-tournament Woods interview made for an amazing day.

A truly amazing day at that, and certainly one for the memorabilia scrapbook!

With a brief rest and vista beneath the old oak tree right behind the clubhouse, it was easy to see where the Woods-Couples group was on the golf course.

As the heart of the green fairways opened before me, I walked down towards the mass of people. Crossing the first and ninth fairways, I thought about the legacy of Bobby Jones and what he would have thought about the whole five-month Tiger Tsunami.

After recently reading Charles Price's A Golf Story, Jones, the leading golf amateur and gentleman of all time, was fresh in my mind.

The gallery was huge, 15 people deep surrounding the entire hole. Other patrons stopped in the crosswalks near the tee to catch a glimpse of Woods as he approached the green at the no-longer-short 450-yard par-4 hole.

If you were at Augusta National for the Monday practice round, you were out there following Tiger Woods.

Literally, the gallery was bigger than the Woods-Rocco Monday U.S. Open showdown at Torrey Pines two years ago.

The familiar sights were there—Tiger in an unusually soft yellow, pink, and gray striped shirt.

His buff physique, though, made the outfit look formidable.

There was Steve Williams on his bag with the familiar Tiger head cover.

Still on his left wrist was the Buddhist bracelet for protection and strength that Kelly Tilghman asked him about in her March 21 interview with the contrite Tiger.

A look back up the hill toward the clubhouse revealed even more patrons flocking down to see Tiger return to the game of golf.

Tiger duck-hooked his second shot on the eighth fairway, and it is clear to see his game is not yet at its highest level.

That doesn’t mean come Thursday it won't be there.

Who knows if his putter will be hot after an extended cool down period?

The atmosphere seemed a little subdued.

There was polite applause coming to greens and leaving tees.

The more than usual heckling or verbal outbursts from the large throng seemed to be positive, and though some had beers in their hands, there were no unruly drunks.

Not on these hallowed grounds.

"Good to see you, Tiger."

"Thanks for playing, Tiger."

Tiger tipped his hat respectfully to the gallery.

As we went down the tenth, I realized the gallery seemed to be larger than when Angel Cabrera closed out Kenny Perry with a par to win last year.

The stands of the No. 12 tee in the heart of Amen Corner were chock full. Woods hit one deep into the back bunker.

Couples hit two shots within 15 feet of the flagstick waving in the gentle breeze. The 1992 Masters champion seems to be bringing his "A" game to Augusta in search of a second green jacket.

Woods hit another left shot on the signature dog-leg-left par-five 13th hole.

Miraculously, it carried through the trees, plopping down on the fairway within a medium-iron approach shot to the green.

Woods hit another higher and shorter to the right and elected to play that one, dumping it into Rae's Creek short of the green.

No problem, it is a practice day.

Knowing luck will not earn him his fifth Masters victory, he left-handed the first ball towards Williams who was 30-40 yards ahead.

Williams, in his normal gallop always leading the pack with his head down, didn't realize his player was knocking the ball towards him to pick it up until the third or fourth attempt.

It sure looked like Tiger was having a lot of fun out there between the ropes once again.

Why shouldn't he?

The past five months have passed, with December being the critical time to decide whether or not he was to confront the demon within.

January was rehabilitation to the extent he missed his son's first birthday celebration.

February was the TPC Sawgrass apology speech taking responsibility for his disgusting behavior.

March was the first of the interviews with Kelly and ESPN's Tim Rinaldi.

Now it is April and The Masters!

Time has a way of moving us forward to what seems like a distant future.

Jim Furyk caught up with the group and joined them on the 13th green.

On the 14th green, Tiger torpedoed a long putt well past the hole.

The gallery gasped.

Then the ball retraced its path back down a slope nearly going into the hole.

Tiger grinned as if to say, "Remember me?"

"Remember my fabulous chip-in on No. 16 in 2005, when I last won The Masters?"

"Please don't be distracted. Forget about all that other nonsense."

"I am new and improved."

It was a usual day at Augusta National.

Remember the pictures of the deep snow in February?

Well today, when the wind blew, sheets of pollen came off the trees.

There was a smoky, eerie feeling to the hallowed grounds.

The azaleas on the 14th hole have yet to fully bloom.

A colorless Masters?

Absolutely, positively, without a doubt, NO!

The skipping of the balls across the pond at the par-3 16th occurred surely as Easter Sunday came yesterday.

There are spring time traditions to be honored and played out here this week.

Who will be the 2010 Masters Champion?

As the Woods throng went towards the 17th green, I took a shortcut to the 18th green via the seventh as I did earlier in the morning.

Colorful Ryo Ishikawa was playing a sand shot from the back bunker.

Ishikawa is the "Tiger Woods of Japan."

At age 18, he missed the last World Golf Championship at Doral to attend his high school graduation.

What is the Tiger Woods' lesson to be learned?

We are all human.

We all make mistakes.

The true focus of life is that which inspires us to rise up against and eventually defeat our shortcomings. Or at least hold them at bay while we live our life to the best of our ability.

Tiger is doing just that.

Good for Tiger in his afternoon interview session.

They played 18 holes in less than four hours.

Tiger faced the media for 34 minutes and answered every question in a forthright and honest manner.

Fred Couples is hot.

Tiger is heating up.

Who gets to the World Golf Hall of Fame quicker?

Likely Couples, because Tiger has to wait until the Fall 2016 inductions when he is 40 years old.

Let's keep things in a golf perspective.

After all, Jones' perspective on golf was similar to his perspective on life.

As one who handled the worse of physical ailments with grace after a brilliant playing career, Jones is an excellent role model for Woods to do the same with his moral deficiency.

Time and opportunity is on the side of Tiger in golf and life.

I was up way too early today, before the crack of dawn.

I am tired.

It will likely be early to bed for me.

After all, it looks all Duke tonight in the NCAA Finale…

And it looks like Tiger is back and may very well be as good as ever before this whole nonsense started.

It's springtime, this is The Masters and all is well in the world of golf!

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and The Golf Channel.

 

He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

 

He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to AndyReistetter@gmail.com

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