The interwebs are all atwitter with rumors of Tiger’s return to competitive golf by the Masters.
Last week, an Australian paper said that his first competitive rounds since the sex scandals would come at the Accenture Match Play Championships—a rumor Steve Williams quickly debunked. Now, “inside sources” are saying that Woody will come back at the Tavistock Cup, a made-for-television event featuring the pampered residents of two “rival” Florida clubs: Lake Nona Golf and Country Club and Isleworth Golf and Country Club. Both are owned by the Tavistock investment group. The Cup is supposed to be his lone warmup to The Masters.
It makes sense, I suppose. The Tavistock Cup is a limited attendance event, and security surely will be able to keep most of the tabloid media away. The Tavistock Cup is hardly a Masters warmup, but it’s something.
More interesting, I think, is what these widespread rumors (and their seeming general acceptance) say about Tiger’s credibility. Implicit in any discussion of a Masters return is the belief that his show of contrition and penance is but a charade: Tiger’s done the obligatory celebrity stint in rehab, signaling that his problems were not of a moral nature, but medical. He’s missed a couple of tournaments, signaling that he really, really cares about his family. And having done that, he’s free to go back to the usual.
The betting odds on Tiger’s return certainly seem to favor a Master’s return. British bookies are offering 1-4 odds on his return. That means that a bet of $4 would pay $5, a sign that few are willing to bet against Tiger’s 2010 Masters return.
If anyone seriously believed otherwise, the discussion would all be about a year without Tiger and the odds would be much longer. Instead, in these quick return rumors, I detect a bit of a smirk and a knowing wink.
I really hope that Tiger’s return is not imminent, and that he is serious about repairing relations with his family. Given his serial philandering, I can’t imagine that things can be made right by a visit to a clinic and a couple of missed tournaments. Even if relations are better with Elin, however, he could at the very least signal to his fans and his sponsors that he’s turned over a new leaf by passing on this year’s Masters—and perhaps even the US Open. Missing the things that seemingly are most important to him would show (to me, at least) that he’s discovered the importance of family.
At the very least, an extended leave of absence (and missing a couple of the regular tournaments doesn’t count), would be the right PR move.