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Tiger Woods is back. Already. But is he a changed man?

Following revelations of marital infidelity and a hiatus from golf, Tiger Woods returns to play Thursday at the Masters, a tournament he's won four times.

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By NORMAN CHAD
Monday, April 5, 2010

Elin Nordegren was cleaning out her husband Tiger Woods's dresser drawers when she found a box with three golf balls and $2,000 in it. When he got home from the driving range, she asked him about the concealed items. Tiger said, "I'm sorry I hid this from you, but the truth is, every time I cheated on you in the last three years, I put a golf ball in the drawer." Elin was upset at first, but after further reflection, told Tiger, "I guess three times in three years is really not that bad. . . . By the way, what is the $2,000 in the drawer?" Tiger replied, "Well, every time I got to a dozen balls, I sold them."

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So later this week, the world's greatest golfer -- recently on professional hiatus due to personal infidelity -- will end his five-month interlude in Augusta, Ga., and from all indications, his return to the links will attract the attention of almost all 300 million living Americans, plus an errant Canadian or two. If Tiger Woods had been the first man to walk on the moon, he would not have attracted the TV viewership he will for walking the Masters Thursday through Sunday.

Who knew that Tiger would be back this soon?

"I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don't know when that day will be," Tiger somberly told the nation on Feb. 19. "I don't rule out that it will be this year."

Then, a mere 24 days later, he announced he would play in the Masters. I guess that's why he didn't rule out returning this year.

So, with the weight of publicly exposed marital indiscretions on his back, Tiger will soldier on among the shouts and murmurs of the rubber-necking masses.

(This is the point where sports pundits write some disclaimer that Tiger's personal life is none of our business. Why isn't it our business? The man has come into my living room almost every other weekend for the past 10 years or so. I can tell you he used to have an American Express card, drives a Buick, wears a Tag Heuer watch, shaves with a Gillette razor, prefers AT&T cell service, drinks Gatorade, swears by Nike and favors a red shirt every Sunday. I don't expect to know each of his mistresses personally but I do expect to know their names.)

Now, while I am not in the habit of saying "I told you so" -- basically, because I'm usually wrong -- I am on record, repeatedly, that Tiger should not have gotten hitched. Conjugal relations are tricky, my friends. Some of the most brilliant minds in history -- powerful men like Henry VIII, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, Paul McCartney and Couch Slouch -- have found it difficult to balance work life with marital life. In Tiger's case, he found it difficult to balance work life with extramarital life, but it's the same difference.

The question-of-the-day of late comes in two parts:

Is Tiger a changed man, and can he win at Augusta?

He need not be a changed man to win the Masters following his layoff, but, frankly, I don't think he's a changed man and I don't think he'll win this weekend. Granted, he's proven he can win in adverse conditions before -- what, like he didn't have a lot on his mind when he was conducting his Adultery Over America Tour? -- but I believe a little karma will catch up to him on the back nine.

America disagrees.


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