April 4, 2010 — -- Tiger Woods appeared Sunday afternoon during a practice round at Augusta National, site of this week's Masters Tournament, which will mark the superstars return to competitive golf.
It was his first public showing at a golf course since his marital troubles that began in November forcing him to temporarily quit the game. The troubled golfer hit 40 balls, and was warmly greeted by his competitors, and then he quickly disappeared.
He will answer questions Monday at a pre-tournament news conference.
Analysts say it should not be forgotten that Tiger Woods has won the Masters four times, and the latest odds have him winning again this week.
"He won the U.S. Open on a broken leg," points out Gio Valente, a sports psychologist. "I expect him to play just great."
But even if he plays well, this tournament will be different.
When Woods won the Masters for the first time in 1997, he was defying history. In a moment applauded around the world, he became the first African-American to win at a club that had once refused to allow black membership.
Today, Woods is an admitted adulterer and was treated for a reported sex-addiction. There is a good possibility that when he tees off on Thursday, people in the stands could actually boo, or heckle.
"You cannot look at Tiger the same way again," says ABC Sports analysts and USA Today sportswriter Christine Brennan. "Even if they're cheering or they are politely applauding, we know that they know. And that Tiger will never be same to them, there's just no way that people can look at him the same way ever again."
Valente says, "It's not like he's never been down this road before of overcoming adversity and people rooting against him. You have to remember when he first came out PGA tour, there were some pretty mean people. He's an African-American, people yelling racial slurs at him. So he's got experience to draw on"
Across this small Georgia town, where tournament related business seems unusually slow, they're rooting for Tiger.
"I think he's going to do good," says Carolyn Davis, the manager at the Masters Inn Hotel. "Everybody deserves a second chance.
Hightened Security Makes the Masters a Perfect Return for Tiger
At Gary's Hamburger shop down the road, Robert Cross say he believes Woods will surprise everyone in the end with a win at Augusta, even after being away for more than five months.
"I expect him to win it," Cross says. "You would think with all the cleansings he's done at home that the man's not living a lie now could be able to concentrate on his game"
Woods picked the perfect tournament for his return. The grounds are high controlled. Today, curious fans who tried to make it past the gate with their cameras were turned away by very large and very vocal security guards.