Continued from page 1

He surely has been, much in the way Palmer was when he turned the country on to televised golf with four Masters wins in seven years beginning in 1958. Palmer is 84 now and last won here a half century ago, but he and Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player still come every year to play in the par-3 contest and hit the ceremonial first balls.

Don’t count on Woods doing that someday. He’s not wired to interact with people the same way the players of yesteryear were, and it’s hard to imagine one of the most ferocious competitors in the history of the game even putting a tee in the ground if he didn’t think he had a chance of winning.

Palmer said he believes Woods can come back and win like he did before, though he cautioned he may have more trouble with his head than his back. Palmer said he didn’t win any majors after the age of 34 because his success had dimmed his inner drive, and that Woods might be having the same problem.

Palmer might be right, though no one has really figured Woods out yet. He’s one of the most recognized people on the planet, yet he remains an enigma in a red shirt

Without him, though, golf doesn’t seem nearly as fun.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg