Tiger Woods will be making his 2009 debut today at 2 p.m after being forced to sit on the sidelines for the past 8 months after undergoing ACL surgery on his knee. That Tiger Woods is the most dominant force in the game today is a claim that will get zero rebuffs. There is indeed a camp (in which I confess to belong) purporting that Woods is not only the best in his field, but in the sports world at large. The common comebacks to this claim might include the names Michael Jordan, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Federer, and Joel Schumacher. Michael was unbelievable to be sure, but he had a lot of help around him on those Bulls championship rosters. Ditto for Alex Rodriguez. Federer has found an equal (if not a superior) in his quest to shatter tennis records in young Spaniard, Rafael Nadal.
Nobody else on Tour can produce moments like this. Notice how he also gives Nike a free and unbelievable TV ad, with the swoosh displaying itself right before the ball tumbles into the hole.
In other words, nobody has been as consistently great in their sport as Tiger has been in his. His victory in the 1997 Masters was his official coming out party. At the ripe old age of 22, Tiger beat the field by 12 shots! That week, he set a mere 20 different records, including youngest player to win the Masters as well as the first of African-American or Asian-American descent to do so. To date, he has won 14 major championships, averaging more than one a year. Whether he surpasses the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus has become a question of “when”, and not “if”.
To the delight of fans, sponsors, tournament directors, and TV networks, he has returned. In many different ways, these groups have been yearning for the number one player to once again lace up his spikes. There are always severe drops in attendance at tournaments and in TV ratings when he is not in the field. As for the fans, sadly to say, there are two groups. There are golf fans, who will watch any tournament no matter who is playing. These are the purists. And then there are the Tiger fans, who have trouble remembering the pre-Tiger era of the PGA Tour and who refuse to tune into tournaments which are sans-Tiger.
I, for one, am excited that he’s back. I like to think that I belong in the first group, but his latest absence has made me come to the realization that I am not too far off from taking up membership in the latter.