Wiedmer: Will Tiger surface at the Masters?

Wiedmer: Will Tiger surface at the Masters?

February 17th, 2010 by Mark Wiedmer in Opinion Columns

I have a dream. I see Tiger Woods strolling down the 18th fairway at Augusta National in the final pairing on the final day of the Masters. The other half? Jesper Parnevik, of course.

Imagine the tension, regardless of the score. Parnevik, the man who first introduced Woods to his wife, Elin, the mother of his two children, sharing 18 holes with Tiger.

Parnevik, the guy who later said of Elin's rumored attack on Woods as he sped from their Florida home after an apparent marital dispute over his reported infidelities, "I hope she uses a driver next time instead of a 3-wood."

Parnevik, who later said of his and his wife's matchmaking for Tiger, "We probably thought he was a better guy than he is."

Not that we need it right now in the South, but you could pair those two and air condition the whole state of Georgia.

But just imagine the fun of watching Parnevik accidentally clear his throat on Tiger's backswing. Or drop his putter on the green as Woods' blade strikes the ball on a 20-foot birdie try. Or whisper "alimony" in Tiger's ear just before the biggest shot of the tournament.

Alas, it's just a dream. For one thing, Parnevik's career may be at a premature end thanks to a bad back that may need surgery long before the Masters rolls around 51 days from today.

For another, Tiger remains more elusive than good weather at the moment, having managed to dodge the media for more than two months. Everyone seems to think he'll return for the Masters and a shot at a fifth green jacket, but no one is certain.

Yet as we ponder such important sports questions this week as whether we'd rather trust the road crew at Daytona or TDOT to fix our potholes, one can't help but wonder when we'll next see Tiger.

Moreover, can golf survive in a struggling economy without him?

Over the long haul it can, of course. If Woods never played another round of professional golf, the fans would eventually move on without him. It could take a year or three or four, cost the lives of several fast-food, dot-com, financial-flim-flam opens along the way and make bowling look hip and hot by comparison, but golf eventually would rebound.

However, the more you think about it, Tiger should return for the Masters and not a single event sooner.

Here's why: Only at the Masters can Woods be guaranteed a mulligan with the media. The celebrity news Web site TMZ won't have a press badge to the Masters. Nor will the National Enquirer, "Entertainment Tonight" or "60 Minutes."

One easily can see Woods agreeing to one 30-minute news conference on Masters Monday - which also just happens to be the date of the NCAA men's basketball tournament title game - to answer questions regarding his private life. After that, all questions must pertain to golf. Anyone breaking that rule will be escorted from the media building.

And Augusta National would have every right. It's a private club. It's an invitational tournament. It's the most popular event in golf. It has so much money and might that when it appeared its advertisers might be boycotted over the club's admission policies, it put on the tournament virtually commercial free.

As much as any sporting event in the United States is bulletproof, the Masters is that event.

So it's a perfect spot for Tiger to end his silence and his absence. Beyond that, who's to say Woods isn't hanging out at Augusta National right now, playing practice round after practice round, its members sworn to silence?

That's almost assuredly not happening, but wherever Tiger's on the prowl you can bet he's working toward Augusta, and a fifth green jacket, and a return to the game that, wrong as it seems, probably needs him every bit as much as he needs the game.

As for me, I hope he wins it, just to see, who, if anyone, rushes the green to embrace him.

And should it be Elin and the children, we may finally have our answer as to where Tiger's been hiding these past few weeks.