Tiger Woods played 18 holes at Augusta National on Tuesday as speculation intensifies that the 14-times major winner will make a spectacular return to competitive golf at next week’s Masters.
There was a commonly held theory last year relating to Rickie Fowler’s arrival as the man best placed to challenge Rory McIlroy.
It is now 29 years since Jack Nicklaus, then 46, won at Augusta National.
Perhaps the strongest hint that Tiger Woods will return to compete at the Masters has arrived from his sponsors. On Monday, Nike revealed the clothing Woods is scheduled to wear during the first major of the season, which starts on 9 April.
Matt Every’s successful defence of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was immediately overshadowed by Henrik Stenson, who vented deep frustration at what he believed to be unnecessary influence from a PGA Tour rules official on the denouement of the event.
Even at this, one of the highest-profile events on the PGA Tour, discussion – or occasional whisper – relating to a man who is not playing has seemed relentless. There is good reason.
Rory McIlroy has achieved his aim of finding himself at the heart of a tournament chase, albeit more prematurely than he would have preferred, in his last event before the Masters.
The bad news for the rest of the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational is that Rory McIlroy does not seem to regard himself as close to his best.
Ian Poulter had reason to have much more on his mind than simply making an excellent start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he arrived at Bay Hill on Thursday morning. Which makes the fact that he produced precisely that all the more praiseworthy.
If Rory McIlroy is to reach his holy grail by donning a Green Jacket next month, it will not all be on account of serious and intensive work.
This may have to be quite a show. The Open will fittingly begin with Royal Troon’s adopted son, Colin Montgomerie, attempting to fade an iron shot from the 1st tee at 6.35am on Thursday. By the time the third major of the year reaches its conclusion on Sunday evening in Ayrshire, perhaps talk of Rio and golf’s turbulent marriage with the Olympics will be temporarily suspended. One can but hope.
Rory McIlroy’s last shot in an Open Championship was his winning putt at Hoylake in 2014.