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Jason’s Blog: Get well soon, Tiger!

Posted By: Jason Iacovino

Tiger Woods is second all-time in career major championships (14) and trails Jack Nicklaus’ famed record in this category by 4.  What once seemed inevitable now could be fading.

Woods’ last major title was his most memorable–a 91-hole shootout with Rocco Mediate for the 2008 U.S. Open championship at Torrey Pines.  There have been 22 majors contested since and Woods has come up short each time.

But I’m not writing this today in the hopes Tiger gets back to his winning ways in majors so he can chase Jack down–it would be fun to be sure–but I’m interested in something much more basic: Golf needs Tiger Woods.

Woods underwent surgery for a pinched nerve in his back on March 31 and he has yet to return to competitive golf since.  That meant he missed the season’s first major–the Masters–which, not coincidentally, had its worst TV ratings in 20 years.

Woods might not be winning majors at an unconscious clip anymore, but he won 5 tournaments on the PGA tour in 2013 in just 16 starts.  His popularity continues to transcend the golf nerdery and still today any tournament contested in his absence gets an obligatory asterisk next to it.

The prevailing attitude following Woods’ fall from grace following the events of Thanksgiving 2008 is the golf world will continue to thrive even if Woods no longer dominates as he once did because of rising stars like Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, and Bubba Watson.

We now know that simply isn’t true.  This is a different Tour and a different world of professional golf without Tiger.  Watson won his second Green Jacket at Augusta last month and he’s still relatively faceless among the major U.S. sporting public.  McIlroy doesn’t even play regularly on the U.S. Tour, opting instead to capitalize on his popularity around the world and joining only the most popular tournaments on American soil.

Johnson and Fowler have plenty of flair, but they have been tamed.  Fowler is actually the greatest marketing scam of all time–we assume he’s a star, yet he’s won only once on tour in nearly 5 full seasons.  The bright orange and flat bill play well with today’s golfing youth, but that’s quickly going to become yesterday’s news if he doesn’t start winning.

Phil Mickelson has done his part in bridging the Tiger gap by winning two majors of his own since Tiger’s infamous SUV incident, but he can’t do it alone.  We need Tiger back.  Woods elevated golf to the forefront of the American sports landscape, a spot enjoyed only by the NFL, college football, and March Madness, throughout the rise to prominance that began in the late 90s and continued through today.

The simple law of averages says Tiger will break through and win a major if he makes a recovery from his back surgery.  He proved last year with those 5 wins–including top ten finishes at Augusta and the British Open to go with a Players Championship win–that he’s far from done being great.

But it’s more than just his game that we need–it’s his attitude.  We need to see greatness on TV once again, even if it only manages a top ten finish.  Woods told the media this week that there is no time table on his return and the rehab process so far only allows him to chip and putt.  He’s not sure when he will be able to take full swings.

This would seem to put his appearance at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 on June 12 in jeopardy.  All I can say is I hope he isn’t consulting the Minnesota Twins medical staff–because we need his return sooner than later.

I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve rooted against Woods at times. Too much success by one person has a tendancy to get old and I was very put off by his entitlement attitude with the public in the pre-SUV portion of his career.  That’s changed now.  I see a humbler Tiger and I’m ready to cheer for him again.

What I’m not ready for is a U.S. Open with another no-name player on top of the leaderboard while we celebrate Fowler’s clothes, Bubba’s tears, and McIlroy’s fiance.  We need a true champion.  We need Woods back. Sooner than later.

Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 at 3:50 p.m. Email him at jjiacovino@stthomas.edu. Follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.

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