Tiger Mastersminding his return

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

Although somewhat disrespectful to the game, you can bet the reports are true Tiger Woods is indeed targeting the Masters for his return to the PGA Tour.

He's savvy enough to know Augusta National has the strictest media accreditation policies of any event and will shut out reporters and cameramen from non-traditional news outlets such as the National Enquirer and TMZ.com that helped drag ol' Eldrick down.

Not that a pastel-coloured press tent full of aging golf-hacks-in-slacks will go easy on Woods.

But it's a far safer bet than if he's subjected to Geraldo Rivera, Mary Hart or anyone from Fox News during post-round question-and-answer sessions.

Now that he's turned his life into a punchline and become the most talked about athlete of a generation, Woods knows every other event he attends will be filled with broadcasters and scribes who couldn't tell the difference between a double-bogey and a double-dribble. But they know a car crash when they see one, and from now on, everywhere Woods plays will be turned into a circus as most tourneys are only to happy to garner media attention for their sponsors.

That is, everywhere except Augusta.

Make no mistake, whether he ends his hiatus at the first major of the year or some run-of-the-mill cash grab with a silly title sponsor, you can bet interest and viewership of his first tourney back will rival the Super Bowl.

He knows it. He's bracing for it.

And the best way to face the anticipated humiliation from the gallery and the press is do ease into it at the Masters, where he will be shielded from the full onslaught sure to follow. Either way, the world will be watching.

It's a prospect he used to embrace -- but now has every reason to fear.

Now more notes, quotes an anecdotes from a sports world wondering how many times Matt Cooke is going to have to fight Thursday when his Penguins face the Marc Savard-less Bruins again.

AROUND THE HORN

Jim Rome on Twitter: "40,000 hookers to South Africa for the World Cup? Because 50,000 would have been ridiculous. But still not as ridiculous as soccer itself." Not as ridiculous at Twitter either ... Stirring moment at the Air Canada Centre Saturday when a salute to several Olympic medallists was followed by a national anthem sung entirely by the crowd in honour of the fact nobody sang it louder or prouder than we Canadians throughout the Games ... Last week, Jeremy Wotherspoon retires as the greatest speed skater of all-time and skier Erik Guay wins a prestigious Crystal Globe, yet the focus of Canadian coverage revolves around what they didn't do at the Olympics. How long until we simply appreciate these great Canadian ambassadors who are revered and are household names overseas and start realizing the Olympics are more about hype while World Cup competition is more about true greatness?

PARTING GIFTS

No wonder no one found Sidney Crosby's Olympic glove for the longest time --who would've remembered Patrice Bergeron was on the Canadian team? ... Tiger Woods has reportedly hired former U.S. President George Bush's press secretary to help him with his public relations issues. Apparently, Bill Clinton's top aide wasn't available ... Alex Ovechkin will not be suspended by the NHL for yesterday's shove of Brian Campbell because it wasn't malicious and because he's Alex Ovechkin.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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