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Almost as soon as Tiger Woods tapped in a four-inch putt last Sunday that secured the AT&T at Congressional last Sunday, many of the so-called experts in the game proclaimed that Tiger was "back". They said the victory was the can't miss sign that Tiger has emerged from that dark period where he napalmed his marriage, reputation, endorsements, friendships, and to many, the swagger and game that made him the most feared and dominant player in the sport.
After missing the cut in the Greebrier Classic on Friday, I'm wondering what those same people are saying about Tiger now.
It really is amazing how many in the sports world from golf gurus to sports talk radio hacks, seem to be obsessed with trying to determine whether or not Tiger is "back."
My question is, why the heck does it even matter? Why is it important for Tiger to be back? Does he get any extra points in the Fed Ex Cup standings for it? If he is, will he be allowed to scale a mountain and scream from the top of his lungs, "I'm baaaaaaaaack!"? If he satisfies everybody's requirement for being "back", will he get his own Facebook page? Or perhaps, Tiger will get a special edition of a Topps Baseball card.
People...why the heck does it matter to us if Tiger is "back"? Is it fodder for us to use for cocktail, pool, and twister parties to show how golf-educated we are? What will any of us get out of it if Tiger is really "back"?
Some of the talking heads on sports television say that Tiger won't be considered back until he wins a major. They say Tiger has won so many tournaments on the PGA Tour (74) that the regular ones have become boring, (as if winning a single eventis an easy thing) and that he needs to win a major to be considered whole again. So, if Tiger never wins another major his "comeback" won't be complete?
Anyone who has played golf knows how difficult it is. You can be great one day and then play like the worst player in the world the next. David Duval went from the number player in the world in 1999 to almost completely off the golf ranking radar within three years. He once shot a 59, then struggled to break 90. The game can play with your mind and destroy your confidence quicker than Tiger blew up his reputation with his extra-marital affairs.
Tiger dominated golf and sat atop the perch as the number one player in the world for so many years, we got spoiled to just how brilliant he was before he became a philanderer of epic proportions. Who has been number one in the world since Tiger's reign ended? Luke Donald? Wow, if Tiger's is still trying tocome back, then Donald has yet to really arrive. Rory McIlroy? Oh, he had a nice spurt, but he has yet to prove that he can sustain a great deal of a success. Phil Mickelson has never even been ranked as the number one player in the world, not even in Tiger's absence. In his career, Tiger has spent more than 600 weeks as the top-ranked player in the world. Mickelson? Not a single one.
Tiger Woods has three victories, the most on the PGA Tour this season. He's risen to be the fourth-ranked player in the world. However, it's clear that he'll never be the dominant player that he once was. The competition has made great strides and has cut the huge talent gap that Woods had created. But he is still the best player in the world no matter what the rankings say. Will he break the all-time record of major victories (18) set by Jack Nicklaus? It's not a slam-dunk certainty as everybody once thought.
What will it mean to other players on Tiger is "back"? Probably fewer wins and less money in their paycheck, but there's nobody on tour who's wondering if Tiger is "back". They know the answer. Whether or not Tiger is "back" means absolutely nothing? If he is, nobody gets extra credit, money, or a place in the Hall of Fame for making a statement that means absolutely nothing.
If he's not, then there are a heckuva lot of players who would like to be Tiger Woods right about now.