What with unremitting, 24-hour Tiger-vision dominating the build up to the 86th Masters, you may have forgotten that there are 90 other players competing at Augusta this week.

In fact, those 90 players have probably forgotten that they’re playing in the bloomin’ thing too.

The focus on the returning Woods has been so relentless in its fevered anticipation, his announcement on Tuesday that “I feel like I’m going to play” led to an hysterical media shrieking the news at an ear-shattering pitch several hundred octaves above satire.

Golf’s veneration of Augusta National may border on religious fanaticism but all that pales into insignificance compared to the deification of Woods.

The rest of the runners-and-riders, meanwhile, have been left to their own devices, quietly going about their business as if they’ve just taken a vow of monastic solitude.

With Tiger hogging the limelight amid unhinged expectation, the phrase ‘flying under the radar’ is being spouted by those who are feeling the benefits of preparing for a major in relative tranquility.

“We were on the ninth green when Tiger teed off,” said Rory McIlroy about the hoopla whipped up by Woods’ appearance for a practice round the other day. “And it was a mass exodus from the ninth green to the first tee. The back nine was lovely and quiet. That's a nice way to go about your preparation, I guess, unhindered.”

Who will grab the ultimate limelight, and the green jacket, on Sunday night remains to be seen, of course.

In a global game that has a strength in depth that’s deeper than a heart-to-heart with Sigmund Freud, predicting who will ease themselves into golf’s most sought-after blazer is not so much a game of pin the tail on the donkey, more an exercise in pinning it on to any number of thoroughbreds.

Some of them are almost hirpling to the starting gates, mind you. Hideki Matsuyama, the defending champion, has been trying to shrug off a niggling neck injury while big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau is still nursing a hairline fracture in his hand, a partial tear in the cartilage of his hip and is defying his doctor’s orders by playing this week.

After all the previews, ponderings, posturings and pontifications, it’s time to get down to the serious business. And it is a serious business. What was it old Gary Player said back in the day? “There is absolutely nothing humorous at The Masters. Here, small dogs do not bark and babies do not cry.”

You’ll no doubt get a few players barking up the wrong dogwoods, though. And one or two whimpering like a bairn without a dummy as Augusta’s pristine perils and pitfalls tease and torment.

For the first time in its history, this celebrated clump of golfing real estate will play over 7,500 yards. Augusta National will actually be 7,510 yards, with the most notable extensions making the 11th a 520-yard par-four and the 15th a 550-yard par-five. It’s a fair auld clatter and the heavy rain in the build-up will have made it that bit more exacting.

The top end of the world rankings is so tightly packed these days, the main movers and shakers would just about be in breach of any remaining social distancing protocols. Scottie Scheffler, making just his third Masters outing, is the current world No 1 after a thrilling run of three wins in his last five starts. But the portents of a first green jacket for the 25-year-old are not overly encouraging.

Since Woods triumphed in his imperious pomp back in 2002, the only other world No 1 to win the Masters was Dustin Johnson in 2020.

Plenty of smart money is being flung on former US PGA champion Justin Thomas. Not that I have much money - let lone smart money -  to toss about in gay abandon.

The 28-year-old boasts a solid body of work in six previous Masters appearances. He’s never missed the cut and was fourth in 2020 while his iron play and exquisite short game are tremendous weapons in the armoury for the Augusta battle. Add in the nous and experience of Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, who caddied for Phil Mickelson during three Masters victories, and Thomas stakes a strong claim. But then, plenty do.

Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and the aforementioned McIlroy are at the vanguard of the European assault, although McIlroy continues to be burdened by the pursuit of the career grand slam and Hovland’s chipping could be a fatal flaw at Augusta. 

But we could do with a win from this side of the pond couldn’t we? With swashbuckling Seve blazing a trail in 1980, before oor ain’ Sandy Lyle won in 1988 to kick-start a magical run of eight European wins in 12 years, the Masters has only been back to this continent twice since 1999.

Oban’s Robert MacIntyre joked that he would “squeeze into anything” regarding a green jacket size and, having finished 12th on his debut last year, the young Scot demonstrated that he’s a good fit for the test.

Augusta itself is fit to burst with gasping, panting excitement. The latest coming of Woods has ensured that.