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Joseph: Tiger’s return makes golf more interesting (March 26)

Allan Joseph | Monday, March 26, 2012

Can you hear that roar?

Did you catch that flash of red?

Yep, Tiger Woods is back. And I could not be more excited about it.

In case you haven’t heard, Woods won his first PGA Tour tournament since 2009 yesterday. Yes, that’s right. It has been almost three years since Tiger won an event that matters.

Since then, he’s gone through one of the biggest downfalls in sports history, stopped competitive golfing entirely, entered rehab, fired his caddy, lost his swing coach, struggled mightily and faded from relevance as he dropped out of the top-10 in the rankings.

But now, he’s back. To be sure, Woods is but a shadow of the golfer he once was. At 36 years old, he no longer has the athletic dominance that allowed him to simply overpower fields. After the complete upending his life underwent, he struggles to find focus on the golf course like he once did. Perhaps the most striking difference is that the mere appearance of the name “Woods” on a leaderboard is no longer enough to shake anyone unfortunate enough to be standing in Tiger’s way.

But at his core, Tiger is still the same golfer. He’s a phenomenal ball-striker with perhaps the best iron play in history. He struggles to keep his driver in the fairway, and his putting is inconsistent at times.

Most importantly for the PGA Tour, Woods is a personality.

When was the last time the Masters was a relevant tournament? When Woods returned in 2010. Did you watch the 2011 edition, when you knew Tiger wouldn’t be a factor? Didn’t think so.

Will you watch this year? Absolutely.

Like it or not, Tiger was absolutely the driving force behind golf’s increasing relevance in the 2000s. Step back for a second and think about this: he made golf – yes, the sport of old men and Jim Nantz whispers – popular beyond the country club. People knew something, anything about professional golf. As Tiger went, so went the TV ratings. Wherever Tiger went, the massive galleries followed – and wouldn’t stop growing.

No offense to Luke Donald, but he’s not exactly inspiring a whole lot of commercials as the world’s No. 1 golfer.

That’s why it’s so exciting to have Tiger back. He makes golf fun again. There was a certain thrill of watching Woods roar past an entire field in the blink of an eye – one moment, he was fading from contention on Saturday; the next, he was at the top of the leaderboard. Of course, nothing matched the experience of watching Tiger take on the final day of a major tournament in a red shirt. On the one hand, the setting was suspenseful, and the outcome was in doubt. You knew Tiger was going to win, and so did he.

That’s what he lost.

Hopefully, that’s what he’s found again.

Forget the marital infidelities. Don’t worry about the layoff. Just listen for the roar, and watch for the red.

Tiger’s back.


Contact Allan Joseph at ajoseph2@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.