What Tiger Woods Sponsors, PGA Are Watching

Augusta National is maddeningly deceptive. With its wide fairways and pristine vistas it lures you into thinking that scoring well is an easy task.

But the famous course has some of the most slippery and unforgiving greens in the business and it has humbled just about everyone who has ever played it.

With his decision to play the Masters, Tiger Woods has taken the most obvious route back to a venue that is well known for its order and unwillingness to accept anything other than model behavior from its fans, or "patrons," as they are called.

Each patron badge is tied to a name that can be banned from attending the event -- arguably golf's greatest -- for life. But like Augusta's greens, there are many ways Tiger can stumble as he attempts to restart his life and his golf career. More than just TV ratings and a major championship are at stake here. This is about fall and redemption.

As all eyes focus on Tiger, here is an analysis of what his corporate sponsors and the PGA will look for.

A Changed Man

The operative words here are "changed" and "man." Tiger has been accused of being detached and cold on the course, and maybe that's what is necessary to win at the rate he has won. We don't really know, as no one has ever done it before him.

But if he is going to win back the hearts of fans and the respect of other players he will need to be more engaged, more gracious to the other players and mindful of his role as professional golf's chief ambassador.

In addition, Tiger has to mature. For years we tolerated his tantrums and club slamming, one word answers and snubbing of members of the press who wrote things he didn't like. That petulance, accepted in one so young with so much drive and talent, doesn't fit the older, billionaire, reformed playboy Tiger. Now he has to be a man -- modest in victory, gracious in defeat, more accepting of the fact that, like every other golfer, some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you.

A Partner

Tiger's remaining sponsors -- Nike, EA Sports and Gillette -- took a calculated risk. They banked on Tiger's full and successful return. What they need to see in Tiger during Masters week is that he is fully aware of his role in the partnership.

There are a lot of events that go on during the week, from dinners for past champions and golf writers to a wonderful tradition of welcoming and interacting with top amateurs, not to mention the large gathering of press. Tiger's sponsors will be evaluating how well he navigates the week. They will understand that he will not be able to fully participate, but they will want to see that when and where he does, he shows grace and skill.

A Winner

As the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like success. The PGA wants it and corporations are chasing it.

If Tiger Woods manages to win the Masters, with the whole world watching after not playing a tournament since Nov. 15, 2009 (a tournament which by the way he won), he has taken a giant step towards reclaiming his life. We not only love winners, we demand them. We drop losers and also-rans quicker than politicians find excuses.

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