Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tiger's back, and not a moment too soon

Can Eldrick return to old form?

Well, it's not spectacular, but it's better than nothing.

Tiger Woods just shot 72 in the third round of the WBC Bridgestone Invitational, putting him at +1 overall, tied for 38th. After firing off a first round 68, he has now shot two straight rounds over par, including yesterday's 71. Woods is missing putts that you would normally assume he would make with ease, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. While he hasn't limped or shown pain like we have been accustomed to seeing the past few years, the frustration from every bad shot or missed opportunity is hard to watch.

But I can't complain, and neither should anyone else. The fact that the 14 time major winner is back after missing three months with a knee injury, is more than enough reason to watch the sport. Let's be honest: Tiger is golf. The sport struggles without the presence of its most impactful player. The guy has done more for the game than anyone in history, and I'll debate that until the day I die. And when the TV ratings come out for this weekends Bridgestone Invitational, there is no argument that they'll be higher than the majority of tournaments this year.

Look back to last April, were you watching the Masters? The final round was the most exciting golf I had seen since the 2008 US Open. Tiger's front nine on that Sunday, shooting 31 -- are you freakin' kidding me? Seven shots back at the start of the day, and tying the leader after nine? That freakish eagle on eight? I watched it at my Dads, each of us going insane after each birdie, each jump in position after every hole, each fist-pump.

And the roar of the crowd; the "YEAHHHHHHHHHH" that followed after each shot. You could see it in his eyes, that "Eye of the Tiger" that perfectly suits him. His natural competitive spirit rubs off on the viewer. Ask anyone: if you're watching golf, and Woods is in the hunt, you get fired up. Whether you want him to destroy, or get destroyed, you watch. He is the anti-Miami Heat...scratch that. The Miami Heat are the anti-Tiger Woods.

After the scandal in 2009, the best thing for the guy was to win. And so far, he hasn't done that yet, nor major or general tournament. He's come close a few times, finishing in multiple top 10's, but that won't cut it. He needs to win, and those wins need to be majors. Despite the loyal fanbae that many male golf watchers are apart of, his image in the public eye is still that of a prolific womanizer who has personal issues. And that may be true.

But winning cures all. And if Woods can win at the PGA Championship next week, or any other major in the near future, the image of him hoisting a trophy or wearing a green jacket will replace that of a man hitting rock bottom, standing before his inner-circle at a scripted press conference aired in front of millions.

That will be his greatest moment.

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