Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tiger and Masters as dubious partners
The announcement that Tiger Woods would play in the Masters next month brought quick reaction from sports media, especially from newspaper columnists and TV essayists. Their opinion of Woods' return covered a wide spectrum, listing secure and sheltered Augusta National as the perfect place for him to start his season to the hallowed setting of azaleas and dogwoods as being too pure and wholesome ground for someone with his transgressions.
The fact is, if Woods was going to return from his self-imposed hiatus after it was revealed that he had cheated on his wife, the Masters would be it. He's not going to catch Jack Nicklaus' most majors wins playing in the Hawaiian Open. This is a record that he covets and although he is only 32--Nicklaus won his last Masters at age 46--Woods has physical issues with his back and knees.
Also, the Masters wasn't always so pure. In the early 1960s, an African-American golfer named Charlie Sifford won the L.A. Open at Rancho Park golf course. The tournament was a legitimate PGA tour event, but Sifford was not "invited" to play in the Masters. The Times' Jim Murray and other columnists lobbied for Sifford's inclusion at Augusta but officials locked the doors on him.
By the time Lee Elder qualified for the tournament in 1970, blacks could not longer be kept out, but it was too late for Charlie because he had retired. Murray often skipped the Masters, opting to go to Florida for baseball's spring training. He once said that he didn't have anything against the tournament, he just didn't like the people who ran it.
Now Tiger Woods is returning and, in many ways, he and the Masters are perfect for each other. I wouldn't be surprised if he won it! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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