We’ve seen this headline countless times since Tiger won his last PGA Tour tournament in 2013 and even his last major back in 2008. You’re probably tired of hearing it, and I don’t blame you. I love golf, have adored Tiger, and even I am ready to give up on him. But, I implore you to tune into yet another comeback, one last time, because this time it actually matters. Not by his actual finish – not many care about the Farmer’s Insurance Open – but because it will tell us everything we need to know about the rest of Tiger’s golf career on the PGA Tour. Why? Two simple reasons: venue and time.
Tiger tees it back up on January 25th at the Farmer’s Insurance Open. Why does that matter? It’s held at Torrey Pines, the site of Tiger’s last PGA Tour victory, in 2013. He’s won this event an incredible seven times. What’s more, it’s also the site of Tiger’s last major win, the US Open, in 2008.
Plenty of skeptics say this course has changed a great deal since Tiger’s days of dominance, but who cares? Tiger sure as hell doesn’t. There is nowhere anyone would rather play than their home turf, their backyard. Tiger’s no different. The only place he’s probably more comfortable than Torrey Pines is Augusta or a strip club, and he can only win a golf tournament in one of those locations...
42 - Tiger’s current age.
55 – The age he looks in his most recent mug shot and that’s generous.
Regardless, it’s clear he doesn’t have a long time to continue playing the game at a high level. The other dominant player from Tiger’s prime, Philly “Cheesesteak” Mickelson, has won only two majors in the last ten years, and the last one was at – you guessed it – age 42.
His number of comebacks isn’t infinite. If you read the tell-all ESPN article on him from a couple of years ago, you’ll know this guy is as human as the rest of us, I’d even say an emotional wreck. The story of a young Tiger asking Jeter and MJ how to hit on girls in a New York City club is comically priceless. Julius Boros holds the record as oldest major championship winner in golf history at age 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. That doesn’t leave old man Tiger much time.
Tiger at Torrey Pines on January 25th and 26th is appointment TV. Hopefully he makes the cut and is in contention on Sunday. Again, the final result in itself is insignificant, but how his game looks will be the perfect indicator of how the rest of his career on the PGA Tour will look. If he’s in contention, I wager he wins another two to three majors over the course of his life. If he hovers around the middle of the pack, he’ll be lucky to pull his own version of Jack’s late Master’s victory. And if he misses the cut, I wouldn't doubt seeing him retire before the end of the decade - Tiger’s not the kind of guy that’s ok with mediocrity. So, tune in. Watch what unfolds. I love all the young guns on tour, but having Tiger turn back the clock would be an absolute treat for the golfing universe.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of monthly blog posts related to golf and pop-culture, called the TFG (Twirls for the Girls) Report.
Editor's Update (3/10/2018): Tiger ended up finishing T23 at the Farmer's Insurance Open - and is tied for second after the first two days at the Valspar Championship this weekend. Tiger won't win this weekend, and that's okay. Don't fool yourself into thinking Tiger will ever be the anywhere near the dominant golfer he once was. In today's reality on the PGA Tour, there are simply too many prominent young golfers and Tiger isn't in his mid twenties. I stand by what I wrote previously - that if Tiger was in contention at the Farmer's Insurance open (T23 is certainly borderline, but I'll take it), he'll win another 2-3 majors. My guess is that means the Masters twice and a toss up as the third major.
Just remember - Tiger woods doesn't move the needle... he IS the needle. The game of golf majorly wins with him in the mix again. Who knows, maybe he'll even catch the invite to that Fowler/Spieth/Kauffman/Thomas Spring Break trip in the coming years - Tiger could probably teach those boys a few things out there - on and off the links.