Well, as it turns out, he can.
His decision to delay his much-anticipated return to golf until the first full week in April – without so much as a tune-up tournament – is undoubtedly a statement about the character of Augusta National and the Masters.
He knew it would be safe.
He knew that this is a place, and this is an event that – even while offering telecasts in 3-D – is of a bygone era, when you respected the game of golf and respected its participants above self-interest and gain. In these parts, anyway, the game is bigger than even its biggest name.
Woods knows that’s how golfers, fans and media are expected to comport themselves at the Masters. He knows it is just the place for a Tiger still licking his self-inflicted wounds who wants to focus on golf. He’s counting on being able to do that, more so than he could at any other venue.
Augusta National will afford him that comfort zone to the best of its ability – not because he deserves it, by any means. Rather, because sporting’s most dignified game deserves it. Because the game’s most storied and tradition-bound tournament demands it. No one will throw a protective blanket around this gentleman’s game more quickly and completely than the folks at the Masters.
Yes, this is a story about integrity and character – not of Woods’, but of the Masters’.
However sad and reprehensible the indiscretions and the injury to others, whatever the debasement of the man’s image, the Tiger Woods soap opera will have to be viewed on another channel. It won’t and shouldn’t be allowed to be played out anywhere near the Masters.