Now that the mystery of where Tiger Woods has been and what he's been doing have been answered, more or less, that leaves us with only one big guessing game. When will he return to golf?
The speculation is off and running. Batting leadoff today, Charles Howell III. Howell spent an hour with Woods on Monday, he told Steve Elling of CBSSports.com, and said Tiger is in mid-season form, although Howell has no idea when he'll return. Woods was spotted on the practice range Sunday at Isleworth Country Club, and was there again Monday when Howell saw him and stopped to chat.
looked as good as he ever has,"" Howell said. "Seriously, he seemed like
he was hitting it the same as he ever did. Look, I am as curious as anybody about when he is going to play. But I didn't want to ask him about that. I just
couldn't… Tiger looked good. He seemed in OK spirits, considering."
Howell was hesitant to say much. In fact, Howell made a joke when he was
asked if he had happened to see anybody famous on the Isleworth range
"Famous? Yeah, I saw Ryan Longwell, kicker for the Minnesota Vikings,"
Howell deadpanned. "You've heard of him, right?"
Now that the talk about Tiger's return is the topic du jour, you can expect a wave of predictions and good-will wishes from his competitors, some of which will be sincere. It's just good form, good sportsmanship and good business to wish Tiger well.
Masters champion Angel Cabrera held a news conference Tuesday and did just that.
"When he does come back, I hope it's in the Masters and he comes back in a great form," Cabrera said. "Obviously I want Tiger to be there. He's the best and when he's there,
he makes tournaments different, it's a special tournament."
There will be no escaping Tiger talk until he does return. For instance, Nancy Lopez was the guest speaker for the 20th annual Springfield (Ill.) Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet, and Dave Kane of the State Journal-Register felt obligated to get Lopez's take on Tiger's troubles.
"As it went on and on, it became really disappointing," Lopez said. She said she has only talked to Woods at an occasional golf function, but Lopez said she feels like any other fan who feels jilted.
"I looked up to Tiger, really; I really admired him," Lopez said.
"Now, I don't feel the same. I just hope he can fix his situation and
can somehow end up happy with his wife and children. I pray for them."
"Tiger was the hero, the champion, the perfect person, and people
enjoyed watching him play golf," Lopez said. "Nobody's perfect, and not everybody wants to be a role model. But in our case, you have to be.
"I finally came to the conclusion that God put me on this Earth to
entertain. I still remember walking to the first tee for a practice
round one time, and a gentleman stopped me and said, 'Nancy, I'd like
you to meet my mother.' We started talking, and I realized this woman couldn't see. She said, 'Nancy, I can't really see you hit the ball. But I came out here so I could hear you hit the ball.' I'm like, 'Oh, my God.' I was getting teary-eyed. That kind of thing made me realize what I meant to people.'"
Lopez said she wouldn't be surprised if Woods plays at The Masters next month, but she can't see him making his return there.
"I predicted he'd play the week before The Masters, then play
there," Lopez said. "I can't imagine he'd jump into The Masters as his
first tournament back. If he doesn't play The Masters, there might be
even more internal problems than we think.
"I think whenever he does come back, he'll realize there are people
out there who still care that he's there. I don't think he'll be
laughed at or be ridiculed. I really think they'll root for him. It'll
bring him back emotionally. But (Woods' alleged affairs) will probably have more of an effect on women fans than men."
Meanwhile, a poll conducted by ABC News and ESPN said that 54 percent of those polled thought Woods was truly contrite, but only 39 percent had a favorable impression of him. His approval rating was 88 percent in 2000 and 84 percent in 2001.
The fact that Tiger's approval ratings have dramatically dropped, something that President Obama can relate to, was completely unrelated to the President's denial of a report that he personally reached out to Woods. Obama said he did not make a phone call to Woods, as reported in Golf Digest, and the magazine issued a retraction saying its mistake was due to a "misunderstanding."