So the question remains, is Tiger Woods back or Not?
If the final two days of the U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco were any indication, that answer would be an emphatic….maybe, but never like he once was.
One has to admit, whether or not you’re a fan of Woods, whether or not you love him or hate him, the first three days sure seemed a lot more entertaining than Sunday’s final round as a great young player in American Webb Simpson overcame grinders like Jim Furyk, Graham McDowell and Ernie Els, all former U.S. Open champion for his first major championship.
I didn’t watch much of the final round because I knew Woods was done after a shockingly poor third-round performance on Saturday. But that, in itself, him imploding in round three was more entertaining than him not even being in the mix on Sunday. But maybe not because I didn’t see that round either as I was on a trek to and from Whitehall to add a brand new black lab puppy to our family.
But when I found out just how poorly Woods was playing on my way back, with an eight-week old puppy sleeping soundly in my wife Amy’s arms, I immediately decided that I didn’t really care about the final round on Sunday.
And honestly, I wish I felt differently.
I loved the game of golf before Tiger Woods and I will certainly love it once he and I are both playing senior golf, he a little better than me I might add.
However, Woods changed things for my love of professional golf. He brought an era of dominance and of fun to a sport that you really, really have to love to watch it on television. And when Woods isn't hunting for majors, I admit, I’m not as tuned in.
And that’s why I was so excited after the first two rounds of the open. He was vintage Woods on one of the hardest golf courses in the world today. It looked as though he had the shots and the patience to simply outlast the course and the field, something no one has ever been as good at doing as Tiger has over the years.
I’ll admit, I thought after Friday, the tourney was over. I thought Tiger would simply make more pars than anyone else who made the cut and win the tourney at even or one-over par. But this isn’t the Woods I grew to love and enjoy watching over the years. Instead, he went from one-under-par to eight-over par in a little less than 24 hours.
It all happened so fast I’m sure he doesn’t know what to think.
And that brings me back to a lesson I need to re-learn every now and again. Nothing lasts forever, especially in sports.
I grew up in the era of Michael Jordan, of the Atlanta Braves winning the N.L. East for 14 straight years, and of the Montana Grizzlies making the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for 17 straight years.
And the common theme in all that dominance... I was naïve in thinking it might never change.
But alas, things do change. Athletes get older, equipment levels the playing field, and in the case of Woods and the Grizzlies, personal and human mistakes will always trump the games on the field and on the course.
It’s now been 17 majors since Tiger last hoisted any of golf’s four most sought-after trophies. It will likely be many more at this rate, and now I’m ready to finally admit that the Tiger Woods I grew up admiring and loved watching play is in the distance past.
I don’t think we’ll ever see him, or anyone ever play the game of golf like he did at several different heights of his career.
And that’s sad for me because there is nothing I like more than sitting in front of my TV on a Sunday afternoon watching Woods dazzle his way to another Master’s or U.S. Open title. I loved that as much as I loved watching Jordan break hearts with game-ending, series-ending shots.
So from the new Tiger Woods, the one who seems to have trouble not only closing the deal in major championships, but even staying in contention at them at all, I’m going to learn a valuable lesson. No longer will I take those magic sports moments for granted. No longer will I take an era of complete dominance in any sport, individual or team-wise lightly.
Instead, I’m going to do a better job of cherishing what I see on a daily basis in sports, both here in Havre and in the professional world. Sports are special, and sometimes you have to realize, like in the case of Woods, you don’t know what you have until it’s all the way gone.