Since that 2008 US Open victory over Roco Mediate, Woods has been on a steady decline. The man who was once hailed as the heir apparent to the major victories crown held by Jack Nickalus, has now gone 16 months without a tour victory, let alone a major. The bright side for Woods is that he is back now, and for the first time in a long time, he says he’s “without pain” after a full weekend of golf. That isn’t only good news for Woods however, that is great news for the game of golf itself.
“Golf, maybe more than any other sport, has always, absolutely always, needed to be carried by one, two or three huge stars,” wrote Thomas Boswell for the Washington Post. Boswell is right, golf needs a cast, a cast of stars, not a cast of nice stories. And for whatever can be said about Woods, no one will deny that he is a star character whenhe plays.
Sure, golf has young rising stars in Rory Mcllroy, the worlds current number one. It has Jordan Spieth, a 21-year-old phenom that just beat Woods by 26 strokes in the Hero World Challenge. But golf needs more than just good players, they already have plenty of those. They need characters. In any good drama, one of the characters needs to be the bad guy, the villain. For golf, it need look no further than Eldrick “Tiger” Woods for its villain.
When Tiger Woods plays, people watch. There are those who watch to root for him, but for the most part, people watch to root against him. Either way, they watch, and golf sorely needs those eyeballs now more than ever. But for those who argue that Tiger Woods can no longer match up with the likes of Mcllroy, Spieth, and Adam Scott, I would say to wait a little while longer before making such claims.
“I want to do what I always do: dominate” Woods told Golf Digest a few months ago. Personally, I believe Woods can return to form by Spring to give the young stars of golf their villain once again. Spieth and the likes need Woods back on the course, because when he plays, the spotlight is off of them, and projected squarely onto the surgically repaired back of Woods. They need their villain, and Woods willingly fits that role perfectly.
So as the golf season is just a few months away, the question of golf’s dependence on Tiger Woods is still looming over the fairways of every event on the tour. Plenty of players have had their chance to seize the spotlight as Woods did back in Augusta in 1997. For whatever reason, they couldn’t or they wouldn’t. The time to seize said spotlight is quickly evaporating because Tiger Woods is back, and if allowed, he’ll have no problem shining it directly on himself. Perhaps golf wants that, and perhaps golf needs that.