“I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don’t know when that day will be.” ~ Tiger Woods
“It remains to be seen whether Tiger has Severe Eff You DNA.” ~ Bill Simmons
“Golf without Tiger Woods sucks.” ~ Robbie Hilson/Vast Majority of America
I plan on touching on each one of these quotes over the course of this post, but let’s knock out the real important stuff right off the bat.
Keith Olbermann is a jackass.
No, I’m only kidding. I mean Keith Olbermann is definitely a jackass, but that’s not the real important stuff.
The real important stuff is that Tiger resumed working with swing coach Hank Haney nearby the Woods compound in Isleworth, Fla., yesterday. And while only the likes of Adam Schefter would try to make this into news of its own – World No. 1 practices, news at 11 – the recent Haney sighting does suggest that a group of first-report British tabloids aren’t totally full of it.
Tiger could indeed make his return at the annual two-day Isleworth exhibition a week from Monday.
You just got chills. Or you got your five best friends on the phone. Or you mumbled an obscenity. Or you busted out your goofy white visor and “Lefty’s Army” T. Point is, you care. And golf needs you to care.
I haven’t watched a tournament since Nov. 11 of last year, when Tiger finished sixth in the HSBC World Golf Championships. This was 118 days ago. He hasn’t played since. Something about a Uchitel and a traitorous Blackberry.
The numbers would suggest that you, like me, haven’t watched either. ESPN reports that from January 2007 to December 2009, 21 golf broadcasts have drawn a 4.0 rating or better. Tiger was involved in every single one.
Here’s another stat for you. Last year’s British Open – the Ghost of Tom Watson tourney – pulled a 3.75 Nielsen on Sunday. Well, four different ’09 non-majors outdrew the Open’s Tiger-less Sunday in the same time slot. Woods was in contention in all four of these… and won two.
Since last winter, Tour commish Tim Finchem has tried to jam a new generation of “stars” down our collective throat, only to find – probably with little surprise – that nobody cares two Pro V1s about Anthony “Two Career Victories” Kim and Harry Potter lookalike Rory McIlroy.
I just want Tiger back.
And if the English bookmakers are right – please, God, let them be right – I’ll only have to wait another 13 days (312 hours, 18,720 minutes… but who’s counting?). Until then, here are a few drifting Tiger thoughts and a prediction or three on which to chew.
The Numbers Don’t Lie Quick. Who’s the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world?
Did you say Steve Stricker? And if you did, as you said it, did you think to yourself, wow, golf without Tiger really does suck? With all the tabloid turmoil surrounding El Tigre and the Clinton-esque cultural outrage over his 14 or so illicit dalliances, it’s easy to forget that little’s changed as far as the actual golfing world is concerned.
All the faux-contenders looking to capitalize on a stretch of Tiger-free weekends totally whiffed on perhaps their lone opportunity to position themselves as legit Tiger rivals. Think Knicks, Magic, Spurs during MJ’s baseball sabbatical.
Consider this: the statistical gap between Woods and Stricker is roughly 145 points. The gap between Stricker and world No. 10 Henrik Stenson is 113 points. Phil Mickelson (No. 3) and Jim Furyk (7) are the only guys in the top 10 who have even won a major. Furyk turns 40 in May. Mick turns 40 in June.
Tiger’s not exactly returning to murderer’s row. And unlike most other historical comebackers, Tiger’s got no threatening challengers to fend off – no Clubber Lang’s or Ivan Drago’s on the horizon. He’ll pick up where he left off – from the top of the mountain – while everybody else is still at base camp.
Re: “It remains to be seen whether Tiger has severe Eff You DNA.” ~ Bill Simmons, ESPN.com
I love you, Bill, but you’re an idiot. Tiger is cutthroat, vindictive, utterly ruthless. If you don’t know this by now, you haven’t been paying attention the last 13 years. There are hundreds of examples of defiant press conference quips and even more Tiger death glares, but because I can’t recount all of them, I’ll instead relay a little story that keeps Stephen Ames up at nights.
Before his first-round pairing with Tiger at the 2006 Accenture World Match Play Championships, Ames told the Golf Channel this: “How he goes about scoring from where he hits it – that’s the amazing thing. That’s the mark of a true champion. As bad as he hits it, he still manages to win golf tournaments.”
Then to the AP: “Anything can happen, especially where he’s hitting the ball.”
That Wednesday, Tiger needed only half a round to polish off his competition, charging out of the gates with seven birdies in his first eight holes. Asked afterward if he had heard Ames comments, Tiger cut the reporter short. Of course he’d heard.
Tiger, what’s your response?
“9 and 8.”
All this to say, you better believe he’s keeping a mental checklist of every slight and every perceived slight, every stray remark and every flippant moral judgment. He knows that he embarrassed himself with that botch-job of a speech. And I would bet my life that he replays each pregnant pause and each condescending glance… This is the kind of stuff that drives him.
As far as golf is concerned, Tiger Woods invented the Eff You. And any still-lingering questions on this front will be answered when, upon his comeback, Tiger takes to the Tour like General Sherman to Georgia.
Sex Addiction First, we should all agree that sex addiction is not in fact a real thing, but if it is – and Tiger actually needed rehab for it – how can this be anything other than a net positive for his already greatest-of-all-time legacy? Tiger spent 45 days in a therapy center that some sources report was to wean him off the ladies. The guy’s already better at golf than anybody else is at anything. Now I’m supposed to believe that he’s been battling addiction the whole time? Either this is not true or it’s the most amazing thing about the entire story. It’s not like the two feed off each other – we aren’t talking about the world’s best floor sweeper with an uncontrollable case of OCD. Tiger dominating with a bad case of the sexies is like Usain Bolt running a 9.7 in a backpack. Unbelievable.
Greatest Comeback Since… I’m not an expert on the Ali comeback (apparently Bill Simmons isn’t either), but I think that’s going back too far anyway. Briefly, here are the similarities between Tiger and Jordan circa Retirement No. 1: both A) were far and away the best and most iconic athletes in the world, let alone their own sports B) had the backing of both the Nike marketing machine and that of their sports’ respective commissioners C) had recently lost their fathers D) had documented fidelity and scandal issues – though with Jordan, of course not to the same extent E) were still in their athletic primes F) had an incomparable killer instinct/prove-you-wrong streak G) had (insert something I didn’t think of)
The Family Man? I call BS on this one. Why does everyone just assume that Tiger’s trying to win his wife and family back? Because he’s a good guy? ESPN’s Rick Reilly said last week that golf isn’t in the top 10 on Tiger’s things-to-do list.
Let’s be clear: Rick Reilly has absolutely no idea what’s on Tiger’s mind, nor does anybody else. Will he back off on work to rescue his relationship with Elin? Maybe. But multiple affairs and a quick professional return would suggest otherwise, no? Since he blitzed his way through the ’97 Masters – hell, since he was a 2-year-old cranking Titleists on television – Tiger’s shown himself to be of one narrow-minded pursuit: namely, golf. I’m not assuming that getting caught with his pants down will change anything.
The Knee The chatter from the naysayers goes like this: if the media pressure doesn’t get him, if his conscience doesn’t, if hecklers don’t… the reconstructed left knee will. Unlike most sports columnist, I am not a doctor. I did however watch the entire 2008 U.S. Open, which was the greatest sporting event I’ve ever seen. Bar none. And from watching the entire ’08 Open, I can tell you that Tiger does not need both knees to win golf tournaments. His ceiling is so much higher than everybody else that he doesn’t have to be in perfect working order to beat down the likes of Lucas Glover and Martin Kaymer. Tiger is the Babe of his era – clubbing 50 bombs a year when the other league leaders pat themselves on the back for reaching the mid-teens. What he did to the field at Torrey Pines was the equivalent of Bobby Fischer taking down Boris Spassky after a stroke.
Now excuse me while I go pop in a tape of the ’05 Masters. Deadline to commit for Bay Hill is next Friday.