Tiger Woods will be back among the pine needles at Augusta National in April.
Robert Beck/SI
By Alan Shipnuck
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

HOT
1. The Masters. The toughest ticket in sports just got tougher.

2. ESPN/CBS. The Masters is already golf's highest-rated event. Now Tiger's Thursday debut on ESPN will be mandatory viewing for sports fans and housewives alike, and if he's in contention on the weekend CBS may be looking at Super Bowl numbers.

3. Tiger's flaks. They finally got something right, making an early announcement to short-circuit the rampant speculation and give the world time to prepare, and doing it on a Tuesday, so as not to completely overshadow this week's Transitions Championship.

4. Golf. Let's face it, it would've been a huge letdown to play the sport's marquee event without its best player. We can now put away all those asterisks.

5. Tiger. It's a relief for the guessing game to finally be over, and now he can focus on reminding the public why they loved him in the first place: there is no more charismatic athlete on the planet. Would winning the Masters mean all is suddenly forgiven? No, but it'd be a damn good start.

NOT
1. Tavistock Cup. Back to a rightful obscurity for this meaningless little exhibition.

2. Tiger's poor playing partners at Augusta. It'll be at least a two-shot penalty having to deal with that circus.

3. The tabloid press. It's no accident Woods is choosing locked-down Augusta National for his re-entry into the game. The muckrakers won't even get a sniff of the azaleas during tournament week.

4. Ernie Els. After one of the most meaningful victories of his star-crossed career, he got to enjoy the spotlight for all of one day. It's typical of how Woods has always obscured Easy's accomplishments ... and everybode else's, too.

5. Tiger. It's quaint to remember that only a few months ago his swing plane was his biggest issue. Good god, how did it come to this?

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