When Tiger Woods left golf on his self-imposed 5 month hiatus, he was in no state of mind to compete at the top of his game. Now, with the talks of his sex addiction and off-course troubles dissipating, it seems the less people are talking the better he is playing.
This Sunday, at the Masters, the viewing audience saw a few things that looked familiar:
1) Tiger Woods unleashing one of his thunderous fist pumps after hitting an eagle to leave him shooting a 31 on the front nine (that's really good).
2) Woods twice held a share of the lead on Sunday
3) He came into a Sunday morning seemingly out of it, and almost - almost, came back for an epic victory.
Tiger's late-tournament presence is huge for both his confidence and the fear of his competitors. We're not talking about some Burger King sponsored 9-hole tournament, this is the Masters. This is the tournament where golfers have become notorious for burning, throwing out, compounding and breaking their clubs after four days of excruciatingly tough holes send them one stop short of psychiatric care.
And with Charl Schwartzel's win, golf has now seen 10 different players win the last 10 majors. The truth is, we need Tiger back. We want him back. He is still the only man in the world who can dominate in a way that brings in sports fans of all kind, and I'm here to tell you: the old Tiger is right around the corner.
The truth is, he did the tough stuff right and the easy stuff wrong. Which, in my opinion, is a good sign. He hit eight of his first eight greens on Sunday. Yet, he was left 3-putting some of the easiest holes on the course. Maybe all the divorce talk is still getting to his putting, but Tiger is slowly and surely shaking off whatever cob webs or mental blocks he had, and he is getting closer and closer to ending his 17-month winless streak. He is still only 4 major championships away from Jack Nicklaus.
And, when he does finally get that all elusive win (which will be soon), how will America react? Will his shiny 1st place trophy or a good post-victory interview draw forgiveness from the country that has put his personal life through a paper shredder? I'd be willing to bet that when golf's most exhilarating player gets his swag back with a 1st place finish, golf's popularity will have a significant and non-coincidental explosion.
Personally, I've never stopped cheering for the guy.