Tiger Woods won the AT&T National at Congressional this past weekend. He shot 8 under 276 for the tournament, and fought off a furious charge by runner-up Bo Van Pelt on the final day to claim his third PGA tour victory of the season.
“I think he’s the only guy to win three tournaments on tour this year, is that correct?” Bo Van Pelt said following Sunday’s round. “On three different golf courses. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I’d say that he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.”
You can say that again.
Tiger Woods has won three of the seven events he has played in this year. That number is staggering. Do you know how many Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and Bubba Watson have combined? Zero.
Golf needs Tiger Woods. Professional golf is a sport unlike basketball, football, and baseball. Golf doesn’t have the luxury of marketable superstars. There are no Kobe Bryant’s, Derrick Rose’s, Dwyane Wade’s, or Dwight Howard’s. No Tom Brady’s, Adrian Peterson’s, or Tim Tebow’s. Golf is a game played by mostly middle-aged men dressed in polo shirts and long pants. It’s a gentleman’s sport in an ungentlemanly time in America. Would the average viewer rather watch Russell Westbrook throw down a viscous tomahawk jam, Sidney Crosby skate around two defenders and sneak a wrister past a flailing goalie, or a 38 year old white guy sink a 12 foot birdie putt? Come on.
Casual fans of golf want to watch Tiger Woods. Sure, it’s great when Jason Dufner does something good. But Tiger Woods is professional golf. If Woods is still in the hunt on Sunday afternoon, all television sets turn to watch him play. He’s the only one on Earth who exacts such a reaction from people. If Woods is down four strokes at the beginning today, what do we assume? We predict that he is going to birdie six of the next nine holes and get himself back in the game. It’s what we’re accustomed to. He is the only golfer capable of things that we’ve never seen before. When he was at the peak of his playing career, he won the US Open by fifteen strokes. That’s right, he beat the best players in the world by fifteen strokes.
Even if he is not at that level of dominance yet, he’s still a rockstar. ESPN covers him like CNN covers Obama. When Woods is playing well, he’s the eye of the sporting world. He’s Michael Jordan. The unequivocal, unarguable best player in his sport. It’s exciting for us because, frankly, sports fans are front runners. We forgave him for cheating on his wife with multiple prostitutes because he swings a hefty four iron. That’s our society. Michael Vick counted his stacks of cash while puppies ripped each other apart. The dude spends 20 months in prison and all of a sudden Michael Vick is the #1 player drafted in Fantasy Football. When Tiger wins his first major since 2008 (and don’t kid yourself, it’s going to happen), sports writers will be drooling over the story line.
As for Tiger, all he needs to do is to keep playing golf the way he knows how to play it. Nobody is better than he is. Let’s be honest- if you were at gunpoint, and had to pick one player to win the British Open later this month, you’d pick Woods. Not only that, you’d feel pretty good about your pick.
Yup, he’s back.