That headline is complete, 100-percent click bait. Because everybody has to have a hot Tiger Woods take. One slow-motion video of him hitting driver, and the internet is full of a million Hank Haneys. A quote about him loving chipping and you can hear the snickering from the Bahamas to Bahrain.
Amazingly, the greatest golfer who ever lived (hot take!) still moves the needle in his winless, physically broken 40s more than any player on Earth. Golf needs him. Golf needs him?
Need is not the proper word. Deserves fits better. Golf deserves a healthy Tiger Woods in his 40s. More unselfishly, Tiger Woods deserves a healthy twilight. His greatness spawned the greatest era of golf, right now. The collective longing for his return has blinded some to what his wake has produced in his absence.
Perhaps it is mourning a true lack of passing the torch. Phil Mickelson has enjoyed longevity thanks to talent but also a youthful joy for the game rekindled by the youthful friendships and gambling rivalries he has nurtured. The golf world hasn’t been able to publicly see Tiger’s version of that until he humbly served as vice-captain at the Ryder Cup. Judging from his comments this week, that experience was a bit cathartic.
As was covered on this site at the completion of the major season, Tiger’s ability has been replaced. Not by one golfer, but by a group of golfers. DJ has his power. Spieth has his putter. Rory has his brand (and power). J-Day has his tantalizing perfections. Bubba has his imagination. Reed has his fire.
Taken individually, one can argue that those players possess skills that would best Tiger’s even in his prime. What nobody can argue is that one man possesses the full, sustained package that Tiger did from 1997 to 2010.
It has truly taken a village to replace one man, but he has been replaced. Half a decade ago, he owned at least a share of the 72-hole scoring record in three different majors. Now, he shares just one. What he still owns are the records of dominance. Winning a major by 15 strokes. Winning 14 majors in his generation. Punishing peers almost out of the game. That will never be taken away. It is the legend of Tiger that will always survive. The village may take his numbers, but they will never take his aura.
In many ways, Tiger created the undoing of his own dominance. The deepest top the sport has ever seen is a product of one man blowing that top to heights never before imagined.
It’s why fans want to see Tiger playing, competing with the new class. Will he win? It may not matter. Golf doesn’t need Tiger Woods, but it would be historically awesome if he, indeed, fought back.