Monday, December 5, 2011

Tiger Woods is NOT Back

First of all, in the essence of transparency, some full disclosure. I am a Tiger Woods fan. Always have been. Probably always will be. I’m guessing some people just stopped reading and clicked off my blog. That’s fine.

Tiger Woods won Sunday for the first time in
two years at the Chevron World Challenge in California.
(Photo US Presswire)
Like him or not, Tiger is the most gifted, exciting golfer of his (and my) generation. He’s also the most important person we have in the game. He drives ratings, sponsorships, public interest and he inspires people to support local golf courses. Because of Woods, millions of people invest their money and time into playing golf. As someone who makes a living writing about the sport, I’m well aware of how badly we need him to be successful again.

So there weren’t too many people more excited to see Woods birdie the final two holes of the Chevron World Challenge to win his first tournament in two years by a single shot. He came through in the clutch like the old days, and it was joyous to watch. The upside of Woods’ victory is obvious: Golf just became more interesting—dare I say “relevant again”—to the masses.

Here’s the downside: Since that final putt dropped, scores of media-types and fans have fallen all over themselves to say the precious words that all of us who understand what is at stake have longed to proclaim: “He’s baaaaack.”

Give me a break. That’s ridiculous. Just because he won an exhibition event in a field of 18 players does not mean Tiger is back to being the dominant player who has won 71 PGA Tour events (Sunday’s win didn’t count toward that total) and 14 major championships.

Anyone who thinks Tiger is “back” to being the Tiger Woods we knew pre-sex scandal is disrespecting his standard of excellence. It’s also a sign of how quickly people can forget how great he was. Remember the year 2000? He’s a recap: Tiger Woods won NINE TIMES, including the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. He also finished second five times that year.

Yes, Woods is swinging the club better than he has in a long, long time. He’s compressing the ball again, creating a sound at impact that only he can create. His trademark “stinger” shot seems to be back, too. And he’s making more putts (though not as many as he’d like) in crucial situations. He poured in the 15-foot birdie putt Sunday on No. 17 at Sherwood Country Club to draw even with the gritty Zach Johnson. Then he slammed home the 12-footer on the final hole to win for the first time since the Australian Masters in September 2009.

But he’s not back. Not yet.

Once Tiger wins three or four (or five) times—including a major championship—in a single season, he’ll be back. That’s when Tiger Woods will once again be the Tiger Woods I remember.

I’m guessing that happens next year, by the way.

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