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Opinion: Focus shouldn’t be on Tiger Woods during Masters

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Tiger Woods, still is search of his 15th major after winning No. 14 in 2008, is prepared to compete in the 2015 Masters scheduled to begin on April 9. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Tiger Woods, still is search of his 15th major after winning No. 14 in 2008, is prepared to compete in the 2015 Masters scheduled to begin on April 9. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

This is the one.

Every time Tiger Woods has stepped to the tee at a major championship, someone, somewhere has said those words.

Still in search of his elusive 15th major after winning No. 14 all the way back in 2008, Woods somehow manages to be the storyline every season. He’s four majors shy of tying Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18, but his life has certainly taken a turn on and off the course since topping Rocco Mediate in a playoff at Torrey Pines seven years ago.

But no matter the circumstances, the buzz heading into each and every major surrounds the PGA Tour’s second all-time wins leader.

Is he still a good golfer? Sure, but you can’t argue that he’s still great until he proves it once again. As always, each 2014 major was surrounded by questions about whether Woods could finally get back on his championship track. But he didn’t even play in the Masters or the U.S. Open, then he came in 69th at The Open Championship and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.

All that added up to the first time since 1996 that Woods failed to finish in the top 10 at a major.

Heading into 2015, Woods’s status was up in the air. But less than two weeks before this year’s Masters — set to begin on Thursday — Woods decided he would play after all.

So now we have a player who wasn’t even sure if he’d be physically ready to go, and the first questions asked are about whether he can win. Honestly, I’d put more money on him withdrawing early with yet another injury than actually winning at Augusta again.

The media frenzy surrounding Woods and his quest to catch the Golden Bear (Nicklaus) is certainly great for the game, or it was, at least. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere someday.

If I had to decide, I’d guess Woods will eventually win another major championship, but I’d be shocked if he ever catches Nicklaus. His prime is most definitely past, and it’s just about time for golf’s spotlight to move on to another name.

I know Woods will be the focus all week — starting with his first appearance in the annual Par 3 Contest on Wednesday — but it’s time for some other names to step into golf’s spotlight on the game’s biggest stage.

No matter how tempting it might be, I implore golf fans around the world to forget about Woods for the week and focus on a player like Rory McIlroy — who is going for his career grand slam at age 25 — or Bubba Watson, the winner of two of the past three Masters.

Until Woods can finally return to form and make his Sunday red shirt relevant again, he shouldn’t be the top storyline during any major — especially the Masters.

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