Just one more win, one walk through the Georgia Pines in a few weeks, and Tiger Woods will officially be back.
And golf – at least the golf they play on the PGA Tour – will be fun again.
If Woods can win at Augusta on April 14, he’ll return to his rightful spot as the game’s most dominating player. I know, I know, he won his 3rd tournament in two months on Monday at Arnold Palmer’s event in Orlando. They have real players there, admittedly, but winning that event for Woods is akin to you successfully stopping the ice cream truck in front of your house on a lazy, humid summer evening in July.
Some players don’t win eight tournament in a 20-year career on the TOUR. Tiger has now won Arnie’s event eight times. How’s that for perspective?
But even a return to the world’s #1 ranking with his win on Monday doesn’t yet qualify Woods as “back”. That won’t happen until he lifts another major championship trophy, something he hasn’t done since 2008 when he one-legged his way around Torrey Pines and out-gutted Rocco Mediate to win his 3rd U.S. Open. It doesn’t feel like nearly five years since Tiger captured a major, but the calendar doesn’t lie.
Watching Woods cruise around Doral two weeks ago and then watching his equally impressive performance in Orlando over this past weekend was virtually enough evidence to proclaim he’s back. But only a major title will do that.
For the sake of golf, let’s all hope Tiger cashes in at Augusta and gets that 15th major title.
Without him competing and winning over the last five years, major championship golf has given us great players with the personalities of an ironing board — guys like Webb Simpson, Stewart Cink and Keegan Bradley to name a few. Nice players and all, but no one is going to put off cutting the grass to get inside and watch them play the last four holes of any tournament.
Rory McIlroy won a couple of majors while Tiger was re-fueling for his final decade of championship pursuit, but his game is now on hiatus while he plays with new clubs and a new girlfriend.
McIlroy is a nice kid and a terrific player, but international golf doesn’t start and stop with him.
When Woods wins, the world of golf wins.
It’s not all that different in the NBA right now. When “King James” wins, so does the league.
To see Tiger again twirling the club after a 231 yard five-iron into a par-5 or giving us the fist pump after a 20-footer finds the hole — there’s not much in golf better than that. But doing it in Orlando on a Monday afternoon is nothing like doing it on the 17th hole at Augusta. Some guy named Kevin Streelman won last week in Tampa Bay when Tiger by-passed the event and decided to let the rest of the TOUR make some money. No one like Streelman or Brian Gay is going to beat Woods at Augusta, you can make book on that.
The road to breaking the career title mark (18) of Jack Nicklaus is still far away for Tiger. He has to win four more to tie. That’s quite a feat, no matter how great you are and how many you already have in the bank. But, in any given year, only 20-25 players are truly capable of winning a major title. Woods, of course, is one of those. So, he doesn’t have to beat 155 other players at The Masters or the U.S. Open or the British Open or the PGA. He only needs to beat about two dozen other players. And he just needs to do that four times in the next forty of those events he enters.
I’d say it’s still 50/50 at best that Woods ties Jack’s mark, but his next best chance comes up in two weeks at Augusta National.
One thing for certain: No one in the world can make the Masters special by winning except for Tiger.
When he wins, golf wins.