Photo by Keith Allison

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You don’t have to look very hard around Augusta to see the annual signs of spring. Warmer weather, with that that dreaded hint of yellow in the air, tells us that nature’s greatest art display is about to commence. The pine trees provide the perfect background for the dogwoods and azaleas in what is true feast for the eye.

It’s this landscape that provides the perfect backdrop for the stage that the world’s greatest golfers will perform on next week. Spectators will make the pilgrimage to the Augusta National Golf Club to enjoy the breathtaking scenery as much as the competition for the Masters green jacket.

The Augusta National course is like a tremendous theatre where the patrons gather to watch golfers act out a play. That is the way the late CBS Sports Executive Producer Frank Chirikinian once explained it to me. Since winning the Masters for the first time in 1997 , Tiger Woods has played the lead role at Augusta. The galleries have cheered as Woods has claimed the green jacket 4 times.

In the years since his arrival, the Augusta National layout has undergone a series of alterations. Some have called it “Tiger-proofing”, but Woods always seemed to respond with contending for yet another title.

Last year Woods skipped the event that has been the signature of his career after having back surgery . The Masters went on without him and former University of Georgia standout Bubba Watson captured the green jacket for the second time in his career. Watson’s victory was popular with the patrons, but you still left Augusta with the feeling that something was missing. As the clock ticks to the beginning of this year’s Masters Tournament, fans of the sports worldwide, are watching and waiting to see if Tiger Woods will participate.

Woods has only played 2 PGA Tour events in 2015, with woeful results. The 4 time masters Champion says that physically feels fine, yet there are struggles in his game that we are not accustomed to seeing. The control of his drives, that made him such a threat on the Par 5 holes at Augusta, is inconsistent. The touch around the green that provided us with some of the Masters most dramatic moments seem a fading memory.

Tiger Woods has yet to announce if he will play the Masters or not. Unlike PGA Tour events, where golfers have to decide by the Friday before the tournament if they will play, The Masters has no such requirement and Tiger could drive down Magnolia Lane next Thursday morning and play. How about that for drama, on a course that his known for providing great theater.

Hard to believe that it has been 10 years since Tiger Woods last won at Augusta, and if he plays this year he doesn’t figure to be a contender. Still this reporter hopes to see Tiger Woods at Augusta next week. Sure the event can and will go on without him, but Woods bring that something extra to the Masters and brings the best out of the rest of the tournament field.

 

Photography by Keith Allison