By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Sports fans feel compelled to sit down on the couch and watch football on Sunday afternoon from September through the first weekend in February.
It’s not so much habit as it is a compulsion.
Football is at the peak of the sports totem pole. You may have similar feelings about basketball when the Bulls are rolling or hockey when the Blackhawks are flying high. Watching baseball is pretty much a sentence that we all have to fulfill. Sometimes with joy and sometimes with impending misery. You all know the feeling.
But golf? Planning a weekend or a Sunday afternoon of watching golf on television seems absurd. Even the laziest among us have better things to do than watch golf on television. Unless you want to take a nap. Golf can help ease you to sleep better than any sleeping pill.
However, that won’t be the case at this year’s Masters, which will begin April 5. Some of the most compelling programming – and not just sports programming – will be on your television at the first major tournament of the year.
Tiger Woods is back in the picture. Woods picked up his first victory in nearly three years when he won Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Classic last Sunday. It wasn’t a victory that came out of nowhere, either. Woods has been playing competitive golf all season and while he has had a few problems such as closing the deal in the final round of previous tournaments or getting his putter to work correctly, he has been striking the ball with authority and looking almost like the old Tiger again.
He won’t be all the way back until he wins a major again and picks up his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus in earnest. Woods has been at 14 majors and holding as he tries to track down Nicklaus’s 18 major titles.
But it’s not just Woods’ powerful presence that makes this year’s Masters such a compelling story. It’s the challenging field that is loaded with superstar talent. Rory McIlroy briefly earned the No. 1 player in the world ranking earlier this month. While Luke Donald reclaimed it with a subsequent victory, McIlroy and Woods appear to be the two dominant heavyweights. Golf fans are hoping for a final round that includes Woods and McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard so they can battle it out for 18 holes.
Throw in Donald and Phil Mickelson and you have enough of a supporting cast to make this a full and lusty competiton. Other “names” that could make this compelling television viewing include Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood. We’ll dismiss defending champion Charl Schwartzel, because this year’s field just looks too strong for him.
While the announcers are certain to gush over the lust Masters course and how beautiful Augusta is at this time of year, I’ve always been in the camp that the U.S. Open was a far more important tournament and even the British Open was higher on the food chain. The Master was no better than third on my list of majors.
But this year, we will give Bobby Jones’s baby its due. This year, it may be the most compelling of all the tournaments as the game’s heavyweights set to square off in what should be the most memorable of battles.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.