Masters warm-up act sets scene for comeback kid Tiger Woods

TV View: A glimpse of Shane Lowry’s nearly hole in one, then back to live coverage of pensive Tiger

There was something strangely soothing about him being back in Augusta, like all was right with the world again. He was there in spirit last year, but not physically, his absence unquestionably leaving the Masters feeling diminished.

But Butch Harmon was back, having had to socially distance from his Nevada home last time around, Zooming in his observations, and if there wasn't already a big smiley head on the fella, it was even beamier when Ewen Murray greeted him in person.

“Welcome back, Grandad,” said Ewen, Butch not remotely offended, possibly even landing a smacker on Ewen’s lips.

Nick Dougherty was chuffed to have Butch back too, but that joy faded a touch when the pair browsed through old Masters memories, hitting upon Adam Scott's 2013 play-off triumph over Angel Cabrera.


“Angel Cabrera! The poor guy’s in prison now! How about that?”

Nick moved swiftly on.

The other comeback – and you'd only have missed the news if you'd holidayed on Neptune during the week – was that of Tiger Woods.

And it was a measure of how very gorgeous it was to see him back in action that not even a cry of “IN THE HOOOOOOOLE!” could have irked you.

“This is a moment I never thought I’d see,” said Butch as Tiger prepared to tee off at the first in a shirt so luminously pink, he’d have been visible from Neptune.

“Here we go, fasten your seat belts, and get ready for this . . . come on Tiger, smoke one right down the middle!”

It smoked more right, in the direction of a bunker, but no matter, the 25,000 crowd, as Butch estimated, following Tiger’s every blink were just happy to see the fella do his thing again.

So happy, in fact, you feared they'd head for the fairway as soon as Tiger struck his ball, not remotely interested in the efforts of the supporting cast of Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann. And spare a thought for Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith, they teed off just before Tiger, and all anyone wanted them to do was move.

There will be those who will complain that Sky reckoned there was only one man in the field, and not 90, and showed more shots of Tiger scratching his nose while warming up than, say, footage of our Padraig rocketing to the top of the leaderboard in the early stages.

But anyone who can’t appreciate the wonder of seeing Tiger Woods play the Masters again, after you doubted if the fella would even walk again, deserves to be de-platformed, cancelled and exiled to Neptune.

And any fear that Tiger had forgotten how to play golf was dissipated soon enough, not least with that God-Almighty-chippy-shot at the seventh. “He knows his onions,” said Andrew Coltart, Butch, by then, so emotional about his former pupil’s display – “he’s baaaaaaack!” – his eyes would have looked like they’d be sprayed by onion juice.

A quick glimpse of Shane Lowry nearly having a hole in one, and then back to live coverage of Tiger thinking.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, mind, Tiger still demonstrating signs of being a mere human by declaring “f**k off” after a rubbish shot. “Apologies if you heard any untoward language there,” said Andrew, but there was no need – these are the only moments when most of us reckon Tiger and ourselves belong to the same species.

In fairness, Sky occasionally focussed for 30 seconds or more on other players, like when Nick analysed DeChambeau’s swing. “His kinetic chain is absolutely perfect,” he told us, “Newton’s third law is in full effect, every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Which is what we always thought when we looked at Bryson’s swing.

And Cameron Smith’s tremendous start didn’t go unnoticed either. “He might get to five under here,” said Ewen. “He might get to where he can afford a haircut,” said Butch, noting that Cameron’s hairdo was last seen in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard.

And then Wayne Riley suggested that Joaquin Niemann “is built like Frankie Dettori”, so there was plenty to keep the non-Tiger-fans interested.

But the day belonged to himself, just by being there. And some of the golf he produced once he turned up . . . ah here, welcome back Tiger Woods. Missed you loads.