Tiger’s return means golf is once again interesting

June 24, 2014 | Drew Forrester

Golf on the PGA Tour officially gets interesting again this Thursday.

Tiger Woods to the rescue.

In what has become a distinctly dry and unmemorable season to date, Woods will do his part to add some life and spice to the remainder of the Tour’s 2014 schedule when he returns from a 3-month layoff this Thursday to tee it up in his own event down in Washington, D.C.

It couldn’t come at a better time for the Tour, which hasn’t come remotely close to generating the kind of interest WITHOUT the great one as they could — and have — WITH him.

Don’t kid yourself at all about this:  Woods is still golf in America.  And it’s not even close.

Perhaps it would all be different if a young gun would have come along since 2009 and done his part to rival Woods.  2009, of course,  is the year “the drought” began for Tiger, who hasn’t won a major title since he limped around Torrey Pines for five days and beat Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open.

It might be different if a young player showed up on Tour five years ago and started winning every 5th tournament to thrust himself into the sporting spotlight a la Woods.  But, it hasn’t happened.  Rory McIlroy has been a terrific player, but not even close to being dominating on the PGA Tour.  Luke Donald?  Please.  He can barely win the Honda Classic, let alone dominate the schedule for a year or two.  Sergio Garcia?  He has as many major championships as me.  Bubba Watson?  He’s really good at Augusta.  When he wins three in a row out there or wins two or three majors in a season, get back to me about his new role as golf’s dominator.  Even the new young gun, Jordan Spieth, can’t put together a handful of wins over five months or so to make us wonder, “Is this the guy to rival Tiger?”

No one since 2009 has displayed anything close — not close at all — to the kind of golf Woods produced in the mid 2000’s when he beat everyone like a drum just about every single time he teed it up.

Don’t get me wrong; the PGA Tour is filled with great players.  Really great players.

But none of them do for the sport what Woods does.

He’s the lightning rod the sport needs, both from a golfing standpoint and from the good guy/bad guy scenario.

Time will tell whether or not his recent back surgery can return him to something close to the form we saw a decade ago.  I’ve said for a long time now that his health has held him back more than anything else, although the 2009 “personal incident” has curtailed his winning ways as well.  There are lots of reasons why Tiger’s health has failed.  Some folks cite his crazy workout schedule, others whisper that he injured his back training with the Navy SEALS and, of course, there are raised eyebrows about Tiger’s relationships with some shady physicians — if you know what I mean.

Whatever the case, Woods hasn’t been healthy — completely healthy — for a few years now.  He might not ever be completely healthy again.  I know all too well how that works, unfortunately.  I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease four years ago and I can say, without a doubt, I haven’t been completely healthy since then.  Elbow issues, heel and knee inflammation, lower back troubles.  It all started bothering me in 2009 and continues to nag at me today.  I bring it up merely to point out that there’s real truth to the statement of: “He might not ever be completely healthy again.”

If Woods can return to full health, he can win again on the Tour.  He can win majors again, too.

Golf needs him to return and golf needs him to win.

Granted, at some point the sport will have to stand on its own without him, but for the time being, with his chase of Jack’s major record still alive, golf needs Woods more than any other player.

If you think golf is better off WITHOUT Tiger, you’re not thinking clearly.  One look at the TV ratings when Woods plays vs. when he doesn’t shows you how much the sport needs him.  Across the country, people are far more engaged in golf when Tiger is in the field and competing for a win.

There’s nothing wrong with that, either.  People should be engaged when he plays, for his golf has always been better than everyone else’s since he was about ten years old.

No one on this planet — not one person — has come anywhere close to duplicating the golf Woods has played since he turned professional in 1996.

That’s why his return is crucial.

If he can come back from back surgery and be somewhere close to “old Tiger”, intrigue and interest will follow.  If he’s just Jimmy Walker or Patrick Reed or some other guy who gets hot for two months and then disappears, we’ll know the glory days truly are gone for good.

I’m rooting for him.  Big time.

He’s been great for golf and great for me, personally, in that he’s made me appreciate the game more, made me work harder on my own game and provided me with gobs and gobs of “material” to pass on to my Calvert Hall golfers.

He’s not winning this week in Washington D.C.  I think we all know that.

I sure would like to see him win at Royal Liverpool next month though.

Let the chase for Nicklaus continue.