Perhaps never before in the history of The Masters has the most discussed player at the beginning of the week been given absolutely no chance to win the tournament.
We last saw Tiger Woods in February at Torrey Pines. He was driving erratically but he has always been able to recover from the long grass and the woods.
It was, rather, the yipped chips from around the edges of the greens that shocked every observer of the game and precipitated his lengthy time away from the tour as he searched for what was lost.
So bad were his short game travails, most assumed there was almost no chance his worse than simply ragged game would be ready for the rigors of Augusta National and the pressure of The Masters.
So bad was his chipping off the short grass that no one gives him a chance to win on a course which, more than any other in the United States, celebrates huge expanses of short grass around its fearsome Alister MacKenzie-designed greens.
Woods has decided his game is ready for public consumption and this week the world will witness a great champion fighting to restore respectability to a game which, at its finest, produced the best golf any man has ever played.
The world is perhaps not ready for the end of Woods, but it was back 2008 when he last won a major championship, coincidentally at Torrey Pines, the site of his awful play earlier this season.
Woods was only 33 when he won that US Open over Rocco Mediate and it was unimaginable it would be his last win in a major championship. But at almost the same age, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson walked triumphant from the 72nd greens at Augusta and Royal Birkdale with surely more glory to come, too. That it never did for either is one of the game’s greatest mysteries.
But its greatest, surely, is the current dilemma of Woods.
This week will tell us something. Never has his game been under so much scrutiny or pressure. How can something he made look so easy be so difficult? Tiger Woods with no chance to win? Surely not.
There are many others having a better time of it including the obvious favourites, Rory McIlroy, the defender Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and the Australian Open champion Jordan Spieth.
None really comes close to being the dominating favourite Woods was at his peak, but McIlroy especially has played golf at a level which suggests he might be as dominant as the man he grew up admiring and hoping to emulate.
To win this week would complete the career grand slam for the holder of The Open and US PGA titles and it is something so significant only Woods, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen and Gary Player have managed to win the four biggest championships played over the widest variety of conditions.
Our best and most likely contenders are the champion of two years ago, Adam Scott and his fellow Queenslander Jason Day.
The question for Scott is the soon-to-be-banned method of putting he has employed for some seasons now with such success. The putter itself is not outlawed; he has only to move his top hand away from his chest to comply with the new laws, but surely something, which already looks unwieldy, will be difficult to operate detached from the body?
He tried the short putter in recent weeks with decidedly mixed results, but ones that showed a marked deterioration the longer it stayed in the bag.
The long one is back in this week, a sure sign he thinks it his best chance to win. When he won in 2103 he did it with a couple of incredible putts, one on the 72nd green and another on the 74th, but no one suggested it was the putter that won him the tournament.
He barely holed anything of any consequence in the final round. Rather it was his characteristically beautiful play from tee to green.
While much depends on competent putting, it’s the long game which has ultimately decided so many tournaments over Augusta’s wild and brilliant golfing landscape.
World ranking: 5
Previous Masters: 4
Best finish: T2 (2011)
Form assessment: Fit again, Day is a legitimate contender on a course he loves above all others. Has finished top three both times he has been fit at Augusta National and already has a win this season. Should be thereabouts.
World ranking: 6
Previous Masters: 13
Best finish: Won (2013)
Form assessment: Made late start to season, but it’s almost irrelevant as his entire training routine is based around majors and nothing else. Remarkably has been outside top 15 just once in past 13 majors. Feels right at home at Augusta National, but question mark is change of putters.
World ranking: 58
Previous Masters: 3
Best finish: T4 (2013)
Form assessment: Still no confirmation he’ll start as he helps wife Audrey recover in hospital. Should he play, his preparation has been far from ideal. But his game suits this course superbly, as shown in past two years when he finished T4 and led early in second round before crashing out. Complete wildcard.
World ranking: 65
Previous Masters: 5
Best finish: T8 (2014)
Form assessment: Missed cut first three times around Augusta National, but has made large and constant improvement since. Quietly moved into top 10 last year and daily remarked about how much his understanding of the course had improved. Not without hope on this ball-striker’s paradise.
World ranking: 109
Previous Masters: 7
Best finish: T4 (2011)
Form assessment: Returns to Augusta National after two-year absence. By his own admission needs to flick the form switch, but loves the course and has never missed a cut here. Finds similarities between slick greens and those of Melbourne’s Sandbelt where he grew up and says he’s “not far” from his best.
World ranking: 1551
Previous Masters: 0
Form assessment: On debut, the young amateur is confronting all the odds and history that says he can’t contend. But he’s planned for this minute almost exclusively since winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship last year and goes in in top form having won SA Amateur title a fortnight ago. Has eyes on being low amateur.