by Jeff Skinner
The PGA Tour continued its very competitive and interesting season yesterday as Tiger Woods returned to the winners circle for the first time in two and a half years. The 2012 season has had plenty of exciting finishes and Woods’ win at Bay Hill has just made the season a lot more intriguing.
So far this season we’ve seen plenty of exciting finishes with big leads melting away and a few amazing comebacks. Adding Tiger’s name to a list of champions that includes McIlroy, Donald, Mahan, Rose, Stricker and Mickelson certainly bodes well for the rest of the season especially The Masters in two weeks.
With one event left before they vie for the green jacket the three most popular golfers in the world look fairly even. Phil, Tiger and Rory all have a victory on the PGA Tour to go with a second place finish and Rory also has a third. Phil and Tiger have both earned about the same money so far and Phil will be looking to get the same momentum that Tiger has when he defends his title at The Shell Houston Open this week.
With Luke Donald’s win at the Transitions Championship last week it appears that the best golfers in the world and the most popular are all playing well going into Augusta.
Tiger has to feel as confident as anyone with his win at The Arnold Palmer Invitational and in his mind he is right back where he was before his downfall. Winning will make you feel that way but things will never be the same for Tiger Woods.
Tiger may go on to win a dozen tournaments this year and notch a few more majors on his way to topping Jack Nicklaus but he’ll never be the Tiger Woods that could will his way to a win and make opponents and the media tremble in his presence.
Gone are the days where no one dare question the all powerful king of the stare down. No longer do players fold on the tee as Tiger flexes his red shirted muscles. Even the lowly scribes now pose questions to Woods that were unthinkable before. Woods still tries to stiff arm everyone but it only works to a certain degree and he continues to come off as abrasive and prickly.
As usual the crowds surrounding Woods as he plays are still the largest of any player and as Woods was walking off the eighteenth green yesterday fans were chanting his name. But the world has changed for Tiger. For every Tiger fan there’s a Tiger ‘hater’ and as much as his fans wish him well the ‘haters’ are hoping he finishes back in the pack, or worse. Maybe all that matters is what Tiger’s thinks in his own head. After all isn’t perception one’s own reality anyway.
For many fans that were burned by the “Perfect Tiger” image that he perpetrated on them before the scandal Tiger is no longer what he was. They feel betrayed and taken advantage of and for that Tiger will have to pay the price. But in Tiger’s mind everything is back to the way it used to be. In reality Tiger will never be what he once was but I guess that’s the second time we found that out.