Finding Tiger's partners will be a daunting task

ORLANDO, Fla. --- Dean Wilson was in his hotel room getting ready to practice one Tuesday afternoon seven years ago when a PGA Tour official called to let him know the pairings were about to be released.


Wilson didn't understand why he was being contacted until he heard the names.

One was a fellow rookie, Aaron Barber. The other was a sponsor's exemption, Annika Sorenstam.

"Someone from the tour contacted me and said, 'The draw is coming out and you're paired with Annika. We want you to talk to the media when the tee times come out, rather than it coming out when you're on the course,' " Wilson said. "I knew it was going to be a big deal. I didn't know it was going to be a giant deal."

Imagine how massive the Masters Tournament will be.

The two situations are nothing alike. Colonial was a celebration of Sorenstam becoming the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour. The Masters could be a circus when Woods returns to golf for the first time since being exposed as a serial adulterer.

Even so, not since Colonial in 2003 has there been so much interest in tee times.

Augusta National has no policy with its pairings, other than the defending champion traditionally plays with the U.S. Amateur champion.

How will they decide who plays with Woods?

"With great care," said Colin Montgomerie, who did not qualify this year. "You'd almost have to ask for volunteers. There's a number of players that will be looking at the draw sheet -- I believe it comes out on Tuesday afternoon -- and will be delighted if they are not playing with Tiger on this occasion."

Since his first Masters as a pro in 1997, Woods has played with only two American pros -- Stewart Cink in 2000 and 2009, and Tim Herron in 1999. In eight of his 13 trips to Augusta, Woods has played with an amateur the first two rounds.

"I'd be OK with it," Cink said. "I've known him for a long time. You have to remember this: At the Masters, playing with Tiger Woods is always a little different than it is anywhere else because there's always more of the people that want to see him play there than anywhere else."

It's unclear whether the men in green jackets have asked for a show of hands.

The prevailing thought is they will put Woods with two players not expected to contend, such as a former Masters champion. Where's Doug Ford when you really need him?

Mark O'Meara comes to mind. Few players have been closer to Woods since he first turned pro, although the relationship is not as strong as it once was. Tom Watson is another possibility. Phil Mickelson volunteered, perhaps because he thrived playing with Woods in the final round a year ago.

"There's a part of me that would be like, 'That would be a good show to be a part of to just watch.' The best seat in the house," Geoff Ogilvy said. "Then there's a part of me that if you truly, truly, truly want to win the golf tournament, surely you want to stay as far away from it as you can."


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