WELL, are you getting excited yet? By all frenzied accounts, the world of golf will have to be strapped to a hospital gurney in a fraught effort to restrain the hysterical thrashings and panting convulsions whipped up by the prospect of Tiger Woods playing in this week’s Masters.

Yes, Augusta National is calling again and, my goodness, what a giddy fankle we’ve worked ourselves into. I say ‘we’ but maybe you – yes, you sitting there quite calmly with your cup of tea and saucer of Custard Creams - couldn’t give two hoots about all this hoopla and hyperbole. Readers of The Herald have always been a canny, unruffled, measured lot, after all. Well, until they start poring over this ruddy page.

The latest Tiger episode may be the most extraordinary. If he appears on the first tee on Thursday, the golfing gods will presumably link hands, the stars will align, the lightning will crackle and everybody will drop to their knees and crawl around on all fours in a rapturous pandemonium of unbridled worship. I may be slightly exaggerating here but you get the general idea.

Just 14 months on from that devastating, life-threatening car crash which almost cost him his right leg, Woods is poised for his greatest comeback on the course where, 25 years ago, he won his first Masters title by 12 shots. 

You’ve got to admire his flair for the dramatic haven’t you? The other week, social media got itself in a right old pickle when Woods’ name remained on the tournament’s entry list. He couldn’t, could he?

A few days later, the internet went utterly delirious when a flight tracker followed the path of his private jet from Florida to Augusta and news emerged that he was playing a practice round. Not since the Wright Brothers first took flight has a plane attracted such point-and-gawp intrigue. That inter-thingamabob, meanwhile, has just about been welded back together after blowing a gasket amid the mouth-frothing mania.

And now, here we all are, still on tenterhooks as the clock tick-tocks down with the heightened theatrics of the counter on a bomb in a Bond film. Woods returned to Augusta National on Sunday and has embarked on a prolonged fitness test of a rebuilt leg over the steep, undulating and unforgiving terrain of this cherished golfing cathedral. You could say it’s a stress rehearsal. Woods is also doing a press conference today which will no doubt prompt the kind of thunderous stampede you’d get with a herd of migrating gnus on the Masai Mara.

The rest of the Masters field, meanwhile, will be shunted so far into the sidelines, they’ll have to show the relevant lanyards to get back in. Somebody like Rory McIlroy, who will once again be going for the career grand slam in a quest for a milestone that has become more of a hefty millstone with each passing year, will be delighted to float along under the radar.  

In a sense, it’s a trifle depressing that the remorseless fixation with Woods roars on at a time when the global men’s game has a vibrant mix of abundant young talent in its upper echelons. 

When it comes to generating hype, hope and hysteria, though, nobody does it quite like this 46-year-old who hasn’t played a full-blown competitive event since the rescheduled Masters in November 2020. Tiger can’t let go of golf. And golf can’t let go of him either.

According to those on the ground, it’s so far, so good for Woods. He seems to moving and swinging well and, barring some major setback, he’ll be striding to the tee on Thursday. Brace yourselves, then, for blanket coverage of every blow, relentless torrents of analysis and a tsunami of gushing genuflection.

Nowhere on planet golf does syrupy schmaltz and saccharine sentimentality quite like Augusta but all that dewy-eyed, mawkish cooing will surely reach new heights this week with the kind of sugary reverence that should come with a warning from the Food Standards Agency about the excessive consumption of sweet things.

Woods has never missed the cut at Augusta in 21 appearances as a professional. In addition to his five wins – the most recent coming in 2019 when we all thought that would be the pinnacle of his powers of recovery – Woods has seven other top-five finishes and raft of top-10s. Augusta is one of his great hunting grounds. 

There is no way that Woods will want to be a ceremonial entrant, playing simply on the basis of being a past champion. He’ll want to compete.

With a leg bolted together with various rods and pins, a back that’s had so many surgeries it’s just about propped up with a buttress and a complete lack of competitive action, the idea of Woods actually competing at the sharp end would appear preposterous. Then again?

"He likes to prove people wrong," observed McIlroy last week. Those of us who thought he was done and dusted, down and out and dead and buried before his 2019 Masters win will reserve judgement.

Given what state he was in last February, with his legs mangled and a gruelling rehabilitation ahead of him, merely playing in the Masters will be a momentous triumph in itself. We await this latest twist in the Tiger tale.