"I'm ready to watch him. He's always been my favorite player. He's always been an inspiration," Jordan said.

The mother tried to discuss the scandal with her son.

"He understood, but Jordan did not want to talk about it because Tiger is his hero," she said. "He wanted to look beyond the personal and just focus on the golf."

Officials at Augusta National insisted that no one player -- not even when it's the world's best embroiled in a scandal -- would overshadow their tournament. And for a few moments, at least, that was the case as Jack Nicklaus joined Arnold Palmer at the first tee shortly after sunrise for the opening shots.

"I've never been up this early at Augusta," cracked the 70-year-old Nicklaus, who won a record six green jackets and agreed to return this year to join Palmer in a ceremonial role.

Sentimentality aside, most patrons were eager to get a look at Woods in comeback mode.

Bill Campbell set up his chair along the second fairway, hoping to catch one of the golfer's early shots.

"I'm expecting him to be wild off the tee," Campbell said, "but I won't be surprised if he pulls off a great round."

Mark Felt stationed himself along the third tee, which also afforded a view of the seventh green.

"He's going to come back sometime," Felt said. "Might as well be here."

Nicklaus, a record six-time champion who last played at the Masters in 2005, agreed to return this year to hit the opening shots with Palmer. They both struck it down the right side, just off the fairway. Two security guards hustled out to pick up the balls.

"I hit a rookie tee shot," Nicklaus said with a smile. "I didn't put my contacts in, so I had no idea where it went. As long as I didn't hear it land, it's OK."