In about half an hour, Tiger Woods, along with humans named Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi, humans who will have quite a headache by the time today ends, will tee off at the Masters. Other people have been playing all day today, but no one really cares about them. Tiger has been the whole show on the PGA Tour for nearly a decade, but never more than he will be today.
It’s worth remembering that ESPN’s actual coverage of the Masters won’t begin until 4 p.m., but they will be cutting in for Tiger’s tee shots, which means what one CBS executive called “the biggest sports story of our time” will, for the next two-plus hours, feature a man swinging a club and squinting. His appearance in August has already inspired its fair share of Sturm und Drang, from that crazy Nike ad to Masters chairman Billy Payne chastizing Tiger for disappointing kids, or something. (The notion that anyone would give the head of that loony organization any moral authority is beyond our comprehension: He was quoted yesterday as if he were some head of state, rather than the corporate stoolie he quite obviously is.) But today it’s about golf: There might be a heckler or two, maybe, but they’ll be quickly stifled. Tiger is not going to attack someone with a chair or start furiously groping a random caddy. The odds are excellent that you will find today as dull as you typically find golf.
The question remains: Can Tiger actually win this thing? To us, that’s the story no one will know how to deal with. We love it when athletes overcome adversity … but this kind of adversity? He’s still the best golfer in the world, but he’s rusty and distracted and doesn’t appear to have had sex in about five months. It’s a tough spot. But we bet everyone’s secretly rooting for him. If you’re one of those people who are absolutely Shocked! and Outraged! that a megarich athlete would have sex with multiple women who are not his wife, we still think, deep down, you’d like to see him playing for the title on Sunday. It might rain that day, after all.
ESPN’s excellent Jason Sobel ranks Tiger with the sixth-best chance of winning, and most of SI.com’s experts don’t like his odds. It might not be the biggest sports story of our time, but it is destined to be as compelling television as golf is capable of being. Even with the squinting.