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Every so often sports treats us to “the greatest comeback ever.” This time, it will be golfer Tiger Woods rebounding from his image-shattering, life-altering events to play at The Masters in 23 days.

This will be riveting. The Masters is already one of the most majestic sporting events to watch. Throw Tiger 2.0 into the mix and, well, “FORE!.”

Every swing, every drive, every putt, every stride down the fairway, every glance at the gallery, every attractive woman in the gallery, every corporate sponsor, every competitor’s glance, every dang thing will provide compelling theatre that will make this tournament more must-see than ever. Clear your schedule April 8-11.

This shouldn’t be surprsing that he is coming back at Augusta. It makes perfect sense, not only because of the Masters’ controlled environment that will not condone hecklers and tabloid media. His televised apology Feb. 19 was timed appropriately so he could make this announcement.

Tiger needs to golf. He needs to see if this is still so vital to him. Whether he needed to go through rehab for private matters is, well, a private matter. His mistress count has now been replaced by a dramatic countdown of days until he is on the No. 1 tee.

He is coming back to the career he’s devoted his life in conquering, and winning majors is the main objective. He has 14. If you think No. 15 could come next month at Augusta, you believe Tiger will be the robotic, shot-making machine

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he was before a Thanksgiving Night accident tore down his castle. If you think he has no shot at contending, you are not going out on a limb, considering just how massive a step this is for a man who’s life has been shattered.

Whoever else wins this Masters, he will be the most overshadowed champion since Nick Faldo overtook Greg Norman in 1996.

Not only must they be popping champagne corks at the PGA Tour headquarters in Florida, but the same scene must be unfolding in Pebble Beach, site of June’s U.S. Open. How long do you give all those corporate sponsors before they come rushing back to Tiger’s side?

“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect,” Woods, who’s won four Masters green jackets, said in a statement. “After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta.

“The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it’s been a while since I last played.”

Hence the term “comeback.” The sporting world bathes in such dramatic returns. They’ve come after health battles, a much-needed hiatus and the insane in-game heroic. Think: Lance Armstrong, Magic Johnson, Dave Dravecky, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Buffalo Bills-vs.-Houston Oilers, 2004 Boston Red Sox-vs.-New York Yankees and countless more thrillers.

Where will Woods’ rank? He is the most famous athlete in the world (hey, David Beckham’s snapped Achilles means his athletic career is likely finished). Woods isn’t just another guy going back on the assembly line.

Here is the rest of Tiger’s statement, as posted on his Web site:

“I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy, and I am continuing my treatment. Although I’m returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life.

“When I finally got into a position to think about competitive golf again, it became apparent to me that the Masters would be the earliest I could play. I called both Joe Lewis and Arnold Palmer and expressed my regrets for not attending the Tavistock Cup and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. I again want to thank them both for their support and their understanding. Those are fantastic tournaments, and I look forward to competing in them again.

“I would also like to thank the Augusta National members and staff for their support. I have deep appreciation for everything that they do to create a wonderful event for the benefit of the game.”

Amen Corner, here he comes, to answer golf’s prayers that he would return and to restart one of the most compelling athletic careers we’ve ever witnessed.

Look for Cam Inman’s Web-only “Candid Cam” takes whenever there’s a breaking sports story, or whenever Cam’s got something to say _ in short, just about every day. You can reach Cam at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com. You can follow him at twitter.com/CamInman.

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