The Tiger Woods rollercoaster just took a new turn, and this time he has no one to blame but himself. But instead of focusing on the abundance of personal problems the number 876 ranked golfer is suffering from, let’s look at if Eldrick will ever finish in first place on Tour again.
There’s no question that at the peak of his powers, Tiger Woods was the greatest golfer of his generation. Hell, plenty of people argue that he may have been the greatest of all time. But it’s been nine years since his 14th major victory. Four years since he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. And since then he’s competed in 24 tournaments without capturing a single trophy. Even worse, he’s either missed the cut or withdrawn from ten of those tournaments.
Yes, in 2013, Tiger Woods won five of his 16 tournaments and stormed all the way back to the world No.1 ranking. However, four years ago: Jordan Speith was 19 years old, Rory McIlory was (and may still be) refining his game, and Dustin Johnson was still recovering from getting robbed at the PGA Championship for grounding his club in “a bunker.” The top five in the Official World Golf Rankings looked totally different than it does today — with only Henrik Stenson remaining — which proves how much the game has changed since Tiger was last on top.
Even though golf may be the most unpredictable sport in the world, what would be even more unpredictable would be seeing Tiger raise another trophy. In a sport where there are surging young stars, there is no room for a 41 year old coming off two back surgeries. There may be guys on tour older than Tiger but they still compete on a regular basis, something Woods hasn’t brought himself to do. So don’t be surprised if he still draws the biggest crowd when he “returns” to the Tour, but don’t expect Tiger to keep winning at his 24.2% clip.
Now none of this means that I don’t want to see the most electric golfer of all-time come back to the sport that he reinvented. There’s nothing better for the game than seeing Woods on the leaderboard while the sun is setting on Sunday. His persona will always be larger than life, no matter how many problems he encounters in his personal life, which will always add some liveliness to a “dull” sport.
What’s changed, in large part thanks to Tiger, is that golf is no longer a dull sport. It’s changed from a game that out of shape men could come out and dominate — sorry John Daily — to a game full of athletes. Wood’s may still be a great athlete but his back won’t allow him to return to the greatness that he once obtained. And what may hurt Tiger the most is that he will no longer be able to intimidate the field like he used to, something he could always hang his hat on coming down the stretch of major championships.
So I wish the best to Tiger, but he should know that he can’t return to Tour and pick up where he left off. The game just isn’t in the same place as where he left it.