Hot Take Alert: No, Tiger Woods Isn’t Back… Yet.

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The annual “Is Tiger Actually Back?” carousel has swung around for 2018 and it’s given us two Sunday afternoons with Tiger in contention in Honest to God, decent golf tournaments. Is this awesome and exciting? Sure it is. Is this indicative of things to come from Tiger Woods? Probably. Does this mean that he’s back to the Tiger of Old? Absolutely not.

Sunday at the Valspar provided an excellent opportunity for Eldrick. But, he missed a bunch of makeable putts, none of which were bigger than his birdie attempt on 18. He logged a final round -1. Paul Casey, the eventual winner, finished with a -6 round, a full 5 strokes better than Tiger. That’s not a Sunday round from a Tiger Woods that’s “back.”

Sunday at Bay Hill – same story. He came apart on the back 9, ripped a shot out of bounds, and was terrible on and around the greens. His mid-long irons were off. His final round score was -3, while Rory McIlroy goddamned crushed a -8. Again, 5 strokes worse than the winner in the final round. That’s not a Sunday round from a Tiger Woods that’s “back.”

There was a point in time where a Sunday with Tiger in a position to win meant that he was going to win. 375 yard drives in the center of the fairway. Greens in regulation. Par 5s in 2. Chip-ins for red numbers. Until he returns to that type of play, he’s not “back.” I’m not sure that he’ll ever get to that point, but I’m cautiously optimistic. In the meantime, there’s some absolutely fantastic golf being played by guys that don’t have their own clothing brands.

Here are some fun stats per the PGA Tour:

  • Tiger is 14th in strokes gained while putting.
  • 36th in average driving distance.
  • 147th in Greens/Fringes in Regulation at 65.36%.
  • HE’S 32ND ON THE MONEY LIST. (Side note: remember when the Money List was like the be all/end all for golf rankings?)

Not particularly gaudy numbers from anybody, much less a Tiger Woods that’s “back.”

Look at this. This is a bad take:

BasementSportsReport on Twitter

Paul “the bro” Casey with the W. But it’s still overshadowed by a solid Tiger performance. Golf NEEDS Tiger, not the other way around. Looking forward to Bay Hill

Golf doesn’t need Tiger Woods. Golf would like to have him, but it doesn’t need him. Tiger hasn’t won a tournament of any merit since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2013. That’s 1,690 days. He hasn’t won a Major since George W. Bush was in the White House. Golf is as popular as it’s ever been and it has little to do with Tiger Woods. Guys like Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, and Dustin Johnson have all had major success and staying power. They’ve garnered interest from a much younger group of fans and helped to eliminate some stuffiness from the Old Boys Club routine that the PGA Tour has fallen victim to. There’s a whole crop of young guys on tour that are playing strong golf and earning their way. The kind of golf fans that need Tiger Woods are the kind of golf fans that only pay attention when Tiger Woods is near the top of the leaderboard.

I’m not some bullshit purist about golf, by any means, but c’mon. There are guys that you’ve never heard of that have played 12-13 fucking events already this year. Guys like Patton Kizzire (War Eagle) and Chez Reavie and Luke List. Justin Thomas has already won twice this year, is 1st on the money list just below $5Million(!), and is well on his way to successfully defending his FedEx Cup Championship. Phil Mickelson is 3rd in the FedEx Cup standings!

I like Tiger Woods as a golfer. I enjoy watching him play when he’s on. I’d love to see him win another Major championship. What I don’t like is the constant back-and-forth about whether or not he’s truly “back.” I don’t like how everyone is willing to ignore the other cool shit going on in golf while Tiger Woods has another mediocre showing on Sunday afternoon. It feels like he’s almost there. The swagger and the banter with the press is there. The club twirls and smiles after making long putts are there. BUT, in my mind, he hasn’t fully returned until he’s won a golf tournament.

Also, he’s a garbage human being.