Welcome to reality

| Sports Columnist

Tiger Woods will return to professional golf at the Masters Tournament on April 8. (Olivier Douliery | Abaca Press | MCT)

Allow me to be frank. As I see it, the bashing of Tiger Woods for deciding to return to the Masters just weeks after he stood before cameras and said, “I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don’t know when that day will be,” is stupid and naïve. As a golf fan, two words flashed across my mind as I watched him utter that: green jacket.

That’s right. This has been in the works for months now so boohoo to anybody who wants to really hold him to his word. It’s called playing the media game. If Tiger had made that speech and gone all “Terminator,” saying, “I’ll be back world, and it will be at Augusta,” he’d never have any credibility. Christine Brennan of USA Today headlined her column yesterday, “Tiger Woods Isn’t Shooting Straight.” Find me a public figure who is, and I will denounce my support of Tiger Woods.

It boils down to this. This was the move that was coming, this was the move that’s best for Tiger, and it’s the move that’s best for the game. Let’s start with the perspective of the sport. This season has been missing the attention that Tiger draws. There have been plenty of good stories such as the culmination of Camilo “Spiderman” Villegas, the return of Ernie Els, Ian Poulter, Alexandre Rocha, Braxton Marquez and a couple of others. Too many of you probably have no clue who these people are or what they have done to merit the attention, but they deserve it. Tiger Woods will draw fans. Golf needs fans. Golf needs Tiger. Simple enough.

For Tiger, it comes back to the fact that he’s human. Just think about the last major “crisis” you’ve had, and think about how you got over it. In one way or another, I’d be willing to bet that some sort of “return to normalcy” factored in. The man made a mistake—fine, he made mistakes; plural. But everyone deserves a shot to move forward. As an avid golfer, I can attest that this game, probably more than any other sport, has a transcendental quality to make bad things evaporate. It will remind Tiger of his core values and how fortunate he is to have the God-given talent he does. He’ll be reminded of his fans, young and old, and his foundation. He’ll remember his father’s influences. For a couple of hours over four days, he’ll forget all the trauma and troubles he has endured.

What’s more, there is truly no place better in that regard than Augusta National Golf Club. I’ve never been there, but I’ve been told one can truly get lost in the beauty and tranquility of it all. For many, it’s as close to Paradise that they may ever get. You can count on the fact that TMZ won’t get in. Yes, Tiger chose Augusta for all that. No, you shouldn’t hold it against him.

In the end, everyone needs a break. I’ll allow that some people regard Tiger more scornfully than I do and not without reason. But how long can a person be punished without a chance for redemption or even rebirth? Many will say this is too soon and is a diss on his commitment to set golf aside for a while. These people may never understand, but in reality, returning to the hallowed grounds of Augusta is part of the healing process.