Professional golfers -- the really good ones, anyway -- value their caddies almost as much as their sponsorships and Rolex watches. Okay, maybe not more than their sponsorships, but you get the picture.
In this sense, one of the two big additions in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters makes absolute sense -- an actual overalls- and cap-wearing caddie, standing alongside you at every shot with (usually) sage shot selection advice. Veterans who prefer to go all Mickelson on their approach shots may wish there were an off switch, but that's not in the player cards. Tiger Woods 12 has been configured as both an easy entrée for new fans and a juicy sop to long-timers.
That sop's right there in the title -- it's the Masters. The chance to play -- finally, for the first time, really play -- the gorgeous greens of Augusta. Chasing the legendary green jacket is the ultimate goal on the real-life PGA Tour, and now it's the grail of the virtual links, too. The game's career mode revolves entirely around making it to Augusta, and so do the club-breaking, challenge-specific Master's Moments. And don't think you'll be donning the green on your first try. Even if you've managed to max your career stats, juice your sponsorship gear and dominate at courses like Pebble Beach, you'll be brought unceremoniously to your knees. When Bobby Jones talks about birdies being dearly won at Augusta, he's not just playing the quote machine for Jim Nantz.
Elsewhere, things in Tigerland feel largely unchanged. The left-stick swing control (on the 360 and PS3) remains what it always has been -- a great way to smash towering drives right down the center of the fairway, and a even better way to turn easy chips and 15-foot putts into double and triple bogeys. It's not like I miss the simplistic days of the three-button swing meter, but seriously, it has to be time for Tiburon to come up with a more accurate way to handle the short game -- may I suggest fully migrating the game to Kinect and Move?
And yes, it's notable that for the second year in a row, EA has found a way to downplay the disgraced face of its franchise by burying Tiger Woods, who now hasn't won a tournament in more than a year, behind misty images of green jackets and shots of the Amen Corner. Kind of makes you wonder when his contract's set to run out.