Once again, absent Tiger is main talk of tournament

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ORLANDO, Fla. --- Tiger Woods was nowhere to be found at Bay Hill -- except in just about every conversation.

It's been like that a lot lately.

Woods spent Tuesday at Augusta National Golf Club, his second consecutive day of practice as he prepares to enter his new world of golf in two weeks at the Masters Tournament. Speculation is as prolific as the tabloid reports on his extramarital affairs.

How will the gallery respond to him? Which two players will be in his group for the first two rounds in what figures to be a circus like no other? What will he say to the media?

Such are the inquiries at the Arnold Palmer Invitational because Woods isn't around to answer the questions himself. His only interviews came Sunday evening with ESPN and the Golf Channel, both lasting five minutes, neither revealing much.

Jim Furyk won the Transitions Championship and walked into his news conference holding a three-page transcript of Woods' interview. Players headed to the putting green or the practice range at Bay Hill, and whenever they saw a camera, a tape recorder or simply a media badge, the topic was predictable.

By now, they should be used to it.

"It's been a weekly thing." Steve Stricker said. "That's why it will be good to get him out here, to get him back playing, to get that behind him -- and us. Not only him, but it's been difficult for us, too. Things are changing on a daily basis. We have to stay on top of it so we can be somewhat responsive to those questions."

Woods hasn't played the first three months. That hasn't made it a quiet three months, except for outside the ropes.

"The fact he's not playing, he's still the No. 1 story on our tour -- if he chooses to be," Paul Goydos said. "He did the interview during Accenture. He did an interview Sunday. ... I didn't even know he was doing the interview. I was watching basketball."

Goydos said the past three months have been far different from the eight months when Woods was recovering from knee surgery. He was out of sight, and only on anyone's mind when Padraig Harrington was foolishly asked whether his two major victories required an asterisk because Woods was missing.

"When he was hurt, that one you didn't hear too much," Goydos said. "People didn't make that big of a deal about it. I would make the argument that this has been no different from when he's playing."


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