By Daniel Shirley The Macon Telegraph
AUGUSTA, — The folks at Augusta National Golf Club are going to be just fine this week. No need to worry about them.
The tournament directors didn’t have to give away badges or beg the television networks to keep the tournament on the air this week. The Masters, in fact, will go on as scheduled.
Even without Tiger Woods.
Not having Woods in the field for the first time since 1994 certainly hurts. It will hurt with attendance and fan interest, and it will hurt with TV ratings. It would be silly to argue against that, and this is not an anti-Woods rant by any means.
But the Masters will be OK. The tournament has moved on without Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and it will be fine without Woods for one week. Woods is the game’s most dynamic and most recognizable player, but currently, he isn’t the game’s best player, not with the injuries he has had to battle in recent years.
It has been a while since Woods has been that player, the player who dominated the game and was the focus of every tournament he entered. He hasn’t won this tournament since 2005, and his last major of any kind came at the U.S. Open in 2008.
So, would Woods have been a story line this week? Yes. Would he have contended? Likely. It seems he always does. But would he have been the sure-fire pick to win like he was in the early 2000s? No way.
There are just too many good players, and his game isn’t what it once was, to put him on that level. And that’s why there will be a tournament this week. It’s a good bet, it will be a heck of an event with lots of plot twists and story lines to keep an eye on starting Thursday.
Can Adam Scott become the fourth player to win the tournament in consecutive years? Can Rory McIlroy breakthrough for his first Masters win? Can Phil Mickelson slip into his fourth green jacket on the 10th anniversary of his first major tournament victory? Can one of the young American stars take the next big step with a career-defining moment?
And on and on and on.
For Middle Georgia fans, the narrative includes Macon, Ga.’s Russell Henley, who is making his second appearance in the tournament after missing the cut last year. Henley is one of those young American stars – along with former Georgia teammate Harris English, former Augusta State standout Patrick Reed and dynamic talent Jordan Spieth – trying to take that next step.
And they are just some of the players to watch. As always, there are many players and story lines to keep things interested at the Masters.
Even without Woods.