In the timeless words of LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback.

To paraphrase the more obscure but equally colorful Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, how can we miss him when he never went away?

You can be sure once Jim Nantz whispers his way through the ubiquitous, easy-listening theme music that has accompanied The Masters every year since Martha Burk was a baby, the soundtrack of golf’s majestic spring major this afternoon will be all Tiger Woods, all the time.

Which is a damn shame.

Looking back on the lurid details of the last four-plus months, I can’t believe any of us ever wondered aloud how Woods would reinvent himself.

There was never a scintilla of doubt that we — and by “we” I mean the media, of which I’m once again ashamed to be a card-carrying member — did it for him.

We sketched him in 60-point type with adjectives such as “contrite” and “humbled.” We asked him the litany of cottonball inquiries in that political advertisement masquerading as a Monday press conference.

OK, admittedly I’m thankful that some of my brethren and sistren marched in lockstep like lemmings and heeded the “golf questions only” edict with minimal resistance. Because the rest isn’t my business, or theirs, or yours.

I don’t care why Woods crashed a sports utility vehicle that’s worth more than my house at the end of his driveway while driving it more slowly than I pedal a stationary bike. Sifting through every word, footnote and appendix of the Obamacare plan would be infinitely more fascinating than reading that police report.

It also doesn’t matter a whit which go-go dancer or porn star will be next to inform us that she enlisted in Eldrick’s Army. Nor do I care whether scorned wife Elin Nordegren will watch today’s final round in the gallery, on a plasma TV at Macy’s, or with her divorce lawyer.

Neither you nor I needed to “forgive” Woods in the first place. That’s an issue for the Almighty, for Nordegren, for her family and eventually for the couple’s two children to address.

But we’ve exceeded forgiveness and accelerated directly to rewarding irresponsible, ungentlemanly behavior. The phalanx of fools wielding notebooks and cameras at Augusta National has registered Woods’ every shot, step and facial expression. The guy even had to clarify that he was wearing those don’t-look-at-me sunglasses to keep the pollen out of his eyes, not to avoid interaction.

Enough. For the love of God and Gary Player, enough.

Don’t sneer at me and my colleagues exclusively, either. However inexcusable our coverage of this event, we’re merely following a trail of unprecedented public interest that is equally unforgivable.

You can forget about any objectivity from this corner, too. I was openly rooting for Woods to have a ‘T-33rd’ or ‘MC’ next to his name going into today’s final round.

Nothing against the greatest golfer of the last 30 years. He simply didn’t deserve to win or be within sniffing distance of it in his first public appearance post-philandery. And his oft-overshadowed rivals didn’t deserve to play his bridesmaid after doing all the right things to prepare.

We all have to own our sins and shortcomings. It would have been a nice, teachable moment for mankind not to watch Woods slide back into the spotlight after his self-described transgressions without any professional repercussions.

Instead, he’ll be in the next-to-last group to walk the 18th fairway in today’s twilight.

Win or lose, he wins again. CBS wins, too.

Or do they? I say no, if only because the obvious company line painting Woods as the comeback story of the century glosses over two or three real ones in the process.

There’s Phil Mickelson, the likable lefty with the man-boobs and the unfortunate history of playing Red Sox to Woods’ Yankees. Mickelson, you might remember, is the guy who didn’t go all John Edwards on his beautiful wife when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. He’s chasing his third green jacket and first since the earth-shattering news.

There’s Lee Westwood, like Mickelson pushing 40 … and like Mickelson not long ago, wearing the dreaded Best Player Never to Win a Major label. The Englishman has led this thing most of the way.

There’s Fred Couples, the 50-year-old with the spine of a great-great-grandfather. That he is anywhere near the top of the leader board is a miracle on the level of a famous person being a serial monogamist.

Those are real comeback stories.

But they’ll be written as sidebars. And that, like the unfortunate series of behaviors and events that preceded it, is a moral outrage and a tune that assaults the ears.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected]

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