Can Woods ever enjoy the Par 3 perks?

4/7/2010 - Golf Ernie Els

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The charm and laid-back atmosphere that makes the annual Par 3 Contest such a hit with players on the eve of the Masters is not for everybody.

Tiger Woods has not played in the unique event on Augusta National's beautiful Par 3 Course since 2004, when he teed it up with Arnold Palmer and aced the ninth hole.

He skipped it again Wednesday after rumblings that he might tee it up after all.

And as disappointing as it might be that Woods did not participate, it is understandable.

After all, the man he is chasing in the major championship record book often took a pass on the event, too.

Jack Nicklaus rarely competed in the tournament that began in 1960 as a nice little diversion and has now turned into a televised event.

No offense, said the Golden Bear, but it wasn't the best way for him to prepare for a major championship. And given his record in the four majors, including his six green jackets at Augusta -- he certainly deserved a pass.

But now Nicklaus, 70, comes back every year to enjoy the tournament with his family.

He's been playing the Par 3 for years, after he felt he was realistically a factor in the big tournament and since he stopped competing altogether in 2005.

And it gives you pause when it comes to Woods.

The world's No. 1 player spoke Monday of how painful it was to miss his son Charlie's first birthday while he took part in undisclosed therapy. Without elaboration, he said that his wife, Elin, and children, including daughter Sam, would not be here this week.

Always protective of his children, can Woods ever hope to enjoy the day before the Masters, when it is routine for kids, grandkids, fathers, brothers and sisters to take part in the festivities as caddies?

The man he trails by just four major titles serves as an awesome example in that regard.

Nicklaus comes to the Champions Dinner at Augusta National every year, and now for the ceremonial opening tee shot. But he did not deny that the little tournament he used to skip is now the biggest draw.

"Each year one of my grandkids caddies for me in the Par 3," the Golden Bear said. "You know, they get a tremendous kick out of it, and I get a kick out of having them. That's why I'm here."

Christie Nicklaus was the first girl in the family to enjoy the honor. She is the daughter of Nicklaus' oldest son, Jackie. They played in the same group with Nicklaus' friends and rivals, Palmer and Gary Player.

And that was but one example of family and friends enjoying a glorious Wednesday afternoon on the adjacent course in front of thousands of sun-splashed spectators.

Would Woods ever do that? Could he?

He talked Monday about the harassment his kids have endured from paparazzi during the past several months. Would he want to subject them to frenzied fans, even adoring ones, in such proximity?

Given all that has occurred, can Woods enjoy the perks associated with his golf accomplishments, as Nicklaus clearly does?

It makes you wonder.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.