If it is true, as we are so frequently told, that sport is just another mirror of life it was maybe appropriate that the first reflection of Tiger Woods here yesterday was seriously cracked. What he gave us was something deeply flawed - and it was never quite obscured by work which at times was hauntingly, well, almost jewel-like.
This shone in the Georgian sunshine with the promise of the deliverance he has been pursuing with growing confidence in the last few weeks and there was a huge temptation to believe that it had all been true, that the Tiger was back.
Unfortunately, it passed soon enough. In all, the swing that was supposed to have given him the impetus to resume his chase of Jack Nicklaus' record mark of 18 major titles failed five times, resulting in grotesque snap hooks which cost him three shots, two, dispiritingly, on the 17th and 18th holes.
That left him on even par - hardly disastrous at a stage of the tournament where even in the best of his days he tended to lurk rather than browbeat - but the true cost was in the palpable sense of a missed opportunity.
Not to lead in early running for a title he has already won four times - but in creating the sense that once more he might just be the man setting the agenda for an entire game.
"I'm ready," Woods tweeted to the world on the eve of the 76th Masters without quite specifying in what area he was most prepared.
We didn't have to speculate too long. If the spirit was strong enough, there were the most serious problems of technique. Over the first nine, which he finished at an encouraging one under, he landed on just two fairways. This was not the serene return to the centre of the golfing universe so many had anticipated.
It was the game's version of street fighting and these days it is a desperate business with which the Tiger is required to busy himself in a way that could never have been imagined before his game and his life began to unravel two and a half years ago. If he was to inflict himself on this tournament which he last won seven years ago, it would only be by the equivalent of house-to-house fighting and on the first holes there had to be shock at the shortfall between good, aggressive intentions and workable technique.
Yet there was clear evidence of a willingness to fight at the treacherously sloping third green. There, the Tiger went one under when he might easily have already been two shots adrift. This was a case of superior damage control through a start which even by his own haphazard standards on a first day here was reckless, to say the least.
Certainly, it revealed a disturbing gap between the rhapsodies of praise for his new swing coach, Sean Foley, and a performance on the first and second tees which seemed programmed more than anything else to bring on a nervous breakdown.
The Tiger's driver looked about as refined as a blunderbuss as he hooked hugely left on both occasions.
On the first tee the Tiger provided an instant bromide for those most filled with passion by his arrival in mid-morning.
It was even worse at the par-five second, when another hook landed in a creek and required a penalty drop. On both occasions the Tiger's body language was less than triumphant.
But, no, he wouldn't let go. Par was retrieved on both occasions and when he went one under at the third a roar of encouragement
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