Tiger Woods hits out of a sand trap during a practice round at the Masters. (Charlie Riedel / Associated…)
Augusta, Ga. The obvious plot line for this year's Masters golf tournament, which begins Thursday, was established and addressed Tuesday, well before the first ball was struck.
Sports Illustrated started it with a recent article that said the only story lines in golf these days revolved around Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. That premise probably would not have been put forth had not Tiger finally won a tournament two weeks ago at Bay Hill, after a 30-month drought.
And it was helped along by the revisiting by reporters Tuesday morning of McIlroy's collapse from a four-stroke lead on the back nine of the final round in last year's Masters. McIlroy keynoted his fade to a final-day 80 and a tie for 15th place by saying, "I learned, as a person and as a golfer, that I just wasn't ready to win a major."
Of course, a few months later, at age 22, he was ready, running away with the title at the U.S. Open at Congressional in Washington, D.C.
Had Tiger not ended his long slump recently, the dynamics of this storied event might have been different this week. For once, after many years, Tiger Woods might have been another story, not the main story.
McIlroy said all the right and expected things when asked about Woods — that he is good for golf and makes the sport more attractive to the casual fan. McIlroy is candid and open but not stupid enough to provide bulletin-board material.
His European running mate, the veteran Lee Westwood of England, came the closest to that, while also acknowledging Woods' value to the sport.
Asked if he thought the Woods of old would be back, Westwood said, "I don't see any reason why not. I've been through a similar slip in form and eventually you figure it out. But obviously, when you do go through something like that, you know there is a scar tissue there, and you know you don't feel quite as bulletproof as you once were."
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