There will be a lot of talk, and a certain amount of tsk-tsking and such. Ignore it. The words never meant anything anyway. From the moment when Tiger crashed the vehicle and his wife teed off on its windows, the rest of this was always about public relations and plotting a return to the world of multimillion-dollar endorsements.
The endgame here was not about Tiger as husband or father or philanderer. He was never a personable guy and we don't really care about his personal life, other than the opportunity for spectacular voyeurism this incident has afforded us all.
So forget the forthcoming rationalizations and explanations. Tiger issued a statement yesterday but, well, come on. Forget it. Just watch the golf. Watch this transcendent media figure - a man who has now managed to dominate his sport, make TMZ respectable and single-handedly create an off-label use for Ambien - as he re-enters the arena.
I mean, wouldn't it be something if he was in contention on Sunday? I have had the great good fortune of walking the back nine on Sunday at the Masters. Tiger's coronation in 1997, when he lapped the field and won by a dozen, was transformative - and you knew it when you were standing there. A couple of years after that, when Jack Nicklaus found himself in real-live contention on the final day as he approached retirement, you could feel the ground shake.
This would be bigger, greater, more consuming, all-consuming.
Still people are wondering: Why now and why Augusta? The answer is because it does two things simultaneously: challenges his golfing pride while protecting him at the same time.
There used to be an old guy who moderated some of the press conferences at the Masters, a man in a green jacket who would sit next to an arriving player on the podium and start by asking how in-depth a description of the round the reporters were seeking. He'd drawl, for instance, "We have with us Tiger Woods, who just shot a fiiiine 68, ladies and gentlemen. What's your pleasure today - birdies and bogeys or hoooole-by-hoooole."
If it were only that simple anymore.
Woods is going to have to talk about his, uh, situation - at least a little bit. But because Augusta National will not grant additional media credentials to anybody at this point, you're going to have a room full of golf writers and sports columnists as the inquisitors.
They will do a professional job. They will not avoid asking the stuff that needs to be asked, at least once or twice. Tiger will answer or not answer as he pleases. However, both you and Tiger can be fairly certain that nobody in the back of the room will stand up and ask him, "Is it really true what the one chick said on Howard Stern, that you used to fly her into Vegas in coach on Southwest? Really, Tiger? Coach?"
So that is Tiger's first victory. Next come the people behind the ropes. A very high percentage of the tournament badges at the Masters are passed down within local families and, frankly, cherished. Scalping does occur, and in a significant (and lucrative) way, but there's a catch. If you go on StubHub, for example, you have to put up what amounts to a $3,000 deposit on the badge. If you don't return it by the end of play on Sunday, your credit card gets charged for the deposit - which will limit the amount of braying idiots, one would imagine, seeing as how you aren't allowed to so much as jog on the grounds without being reprimanded by a marshal. You just know that heckling Tiger will get your badge yanked, maybe forever.
So that is Tiger's second victory, before he even puts a tee into the ground. The setting is as controlled as a public setting with 50,000-or-so people can be.
That leaves the golf, and the tournament he loves, and the history he craves, and the kind of challenge that will either fell him or fuel him to an unforgettable performance. Either way, you have to watch. (And even if there are only 4 minutes of commercials per hour, that's still plenty of time to check TMZ for the inevitable stakeout photos around the home that Woods rents for the week.)
Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at http://go.philly.com/theidlerich.
For recent columns go to http://go.philly.com/hofmann.