Not long before Charl Schwartzel won the 2011 Masters, the grounds of Augusta National rocked with delicious possibility and eager anticipation. Tiger Woods was back on the prowl.
An eagle on No. 8 propelled Woods within a shot of the lead, bringing forth thunderous roars of approval and anticipation. The gallery sensed that golf's fallen superstar was about to reclaim the throne he had vacated during troubled times. And when it didn't come off that way, when South Africa's Schwartzel ascended from the ranks of the mildly known, a feeling nonetheless persisted that there would be another green jacket or two in the future of the man who'd dominated the sport for nearly a decade and a half.
A heightened inevitability shadows Woods heading into golf's first major of the season. In early March he threw a 62 on the board in the closing round of the Honda Classic. A two-plus-year winless drought expired with his victory last weekend in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He appears primed to emerge from a long, arduous journey through personal turmoil and changes in coach, caddy and swing and resume his chase of Jack Nicklaus's record 18 majors.
Woods is golf's Dallas Cowboys, its New York Yankees. Fans and peers either cheer him on or root for his demise but seldom sit on the fence of indifference. But all must admit that the golf is more interesting and the drama intensified when the weekend rolls around and Woods is in the mix, threatening to unleash the magic that produced his iconic status.