Tiger Woods's corporate brand may have been irreparably damaged by four months of scandal but it seems his aura remains intact, with his peers queueing up to testify he is ready to win the Masters when he returns next month.
Woods has spent the last two weeks practising at his home club, Isleworth, in Florida but travelled to Augusta National and played two practice rounds on Monday and had at least another round yesterday.
John Cook, a former PGA Tour player who now competes on the Champions Tour, said he played three times last week with Woods. “From what I saw the last three days of ball striking, I don't see anybody hit the ball like he does. It was vintage. If he takes that game up there [to the Masters], I don't see anybody beating him," he said.
The two Americans were joined during last week’s practise sessions by the PGA Tour professional Arjun Atwal, who described Woods' mood as “mellow".
“He's very chilled out,” said Atwal. “When he's out with us, you can see he's more at peace right now. I think he’s doing all the right things. He’s also hitting it longer than before, there's no doubt. He’s killing it, absolutely killing it. If he gets that putter going at all, he'll probably win [the Masters],” Atwal said.
Atwal added that he and Woods had not discussed personal matters. “What's going on at home, I don't even know and I don't ask him. It wasn't awkward for me or him. As a friend, I just felt for him. I know he did all that stuff, but he's the one going through it now, so as a friend of his I felt for him."
Seve Ballesteros was another who predicted Woods would be a strong contender in Augusta. “I am pleased he made the decision to come back and has finally decided to compete. I think that this is the best news that golf can have right now," the Spaniard said.
“I think that Tiger Woods takes over so much that if he wasn’t around, if he had retired, the golf world would be in serious difficulties.”
Yet if Woods’s friends and colleagues have no interest in probing further into the circumstances surrounding last November’s car crash and the subsequent fallout, the appetite for details remains strong.
The decision to give two five-minute interviews on Sunday — to ESPN and the Golf Channel — was an attempt to address some questions but instead backfired, with a third network, CBS, declining the opportunity to talk to Woods unless there was no time limit on the interview, and most analysts in the US claiming most questions about the scandal remained unanswered.
Another scandal now
Disgraced Tiger Woods faces fresh scandal with another porn star claiming she had a steamy affair with him, says a report. Adult entertainer Devon James revealed she and Woods had a fling lasting two-and-a-half years, during which they enjoyed a threesome that cost the golfer $4,000, reported thesun.co.uk.
The 29-year-old says she first met Woods when he visited her and another adult entertainer for a two-girl party, a code name for a threesome encounter.
James says she did not speak out earlier because she felt bad for Woods, who has found his reputation and family wrecked.
She stressed that she could prove their alleged romantic connection, which she claimed lasted from the end of 2006 until 2008, using old phone records if necessary.