No, it’s not déjà vu. For the second time this season, the biggest story in golf is whether or not Tiger Woods is back to being the Tiger Woods we all had grown to know and love (or hate) over the last 16 years. That’s right, we’re in the exact same position we were less than 2 ½ months ago, back when Tiger had just won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Back in March, we had 2 weeks between the Invitational and the 1st major of the year, the Masters, to speculate. Here in June, after watching Tiger get his 2nd victory of the year at the Memorial Tournament, we have 2 weeks to ask the same question before the 2nd major of the year, the US Open, gets here.
Before spending so much time on what that answer is, maybe we should all spend more time examining the question itself. What qualifies to one person as Tiger being “back” may not be quite the same in the eyes of another. To some, he may already be back. He’s won a couple of tournaments and he’s back near the top of the world rankings. To others, he has to win a major. To a small few, Tiger may need to win multiple majors before they are willing to concede that he is back.
It’s unrealistic for Tiger to meet the latter group’s expectations. He’s 36, not 26. Enough time has passed that we should all realize that Tiger is not in his prime anymore. He will not hold all 4 major titles at the same time ever gain. Odds are no one will ever do that again. It’s highly unlikely that Tiger will win another major by 15 strokes. Odds are no one will ever do that again.
That’s just it; Tiger is the victim of his own accomplishments. He set the bar too high.
Instead of using a young Tiger as a measuring stick to compare the modern Tiger to, maybe now that Tiger has gotten older, we can start to actually compare him to (gulp) the field now. We thought the day would never come, but Father Time has his way with us all. Age, it seems, is the only thing that could knock Tiger Woods out of the stratosphere that he had been hovering around for over 13 years.
He may have fallen out of the stratosphere, but he hasn’t quite fallen to the earth with the rest of us yet. He’s still better than everybody. He may not hold multiple major titles simultaneously anymore, but he can steal one (or two) every year (or two). He may not embarrass the field by 15 strokes in a major ever again, but he may get up on the field early and be as difficult to catch as he ever has been. He may not hold golf’s #1 ranking for 264 consecutive weeks again, but it’s a safe bet that he will be at the top from time to time and at least near the top for a few more years to come.
It’s time to stop holding Tiger to the ridiculous standard that he created for himself. Now that he’s approaching his late 30’s, we can start holding him to the standards of the rest of the golf world now. With 2 wins and numerous top-10 finishes this year, I’d say Tiger Woods is having a pretty good season in 2012.
Is Tiger back? That’s an entirely subjective question. After watching the dramatic way he won the Memorial last week, I couldn’t help but think it was just like some of his wins from the past. There was a thrown club or two. There was some cursing. There was an incredible chip late in the last round that put Tiger in the lead for good and drove the gallery nuts. There was fist-pumping. And at the end, there was Tiger Woods tying Jack Nicklaus’ PGA wins mark, at Jack’s tournament, receiving Jack’s trophy from Jack himself. Only one golfer has had the flair for the dramatic like that and that golfer is Tiger Woods.
For one afternoon, it sure seemed like he was back. And as always, it was extremely entertaining to watch.