Tiger’s return sparks heavy interest in Masters once again
As a young kid, I used to think golf was the most boring sport in the world, right up there with tennis. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to love the beautiful games of golf and tennis, largely due to two iconic athletes: Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. I’d argue that golf is now one of my favorite sports to take part across the professional sports lexicon.
Federer has continued to dominate the game of tennis for the last 20 years, while Woods has fallen off due to a number of issues outside of the game of golf. As Woods has fallen by the wayside in the last few years, I noticed my interest in the PGA Tour dwindle some. That’s not to say I haven’t watched without Woods in the mix; it’s just to say that I wasn’t anticipating the four majors each year like I previously had.
But now, with #TigerWatch back in full swing, thanks to the 42-year-old golfer appearing in prime form once again, and the Masters fast approaching, my interest is at an all-time high.
You see, Tiger was the reason I first picked up golf clubs 15 years ago with my dad, at a local 9-hole golf course near our house called Woodlawn. That course is now closed, but that’s where I first picked up the game. I was awful then, and still not very good now, but watching Tiger in peak form all those years ago simply dominating the tour like he was sparked a love for the sport that has carried me to where I am now.
With Tiger back and looking like a serious contender to win the 2018 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, I can’t remember anticipating a major tournament as much as this one, including the most recent US Opens, which were held at Oakmont Country Club just outside Pittsburgh in 2007 and 2016.
Tiger being at the top of his game adds to a loaded group of young golfers that have taken over the game in his absence, including Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, who have carried the game to a new high, in terms of competitive balance and popularity, at least among young players picking up the game for the first time.
As a number of young guns rise to power in the game, Woods is lurking in the back as the former top dog, hungry to get back to where he once was. He’s still sitting comfortably in the history of the game as the second-winningest golfer in the sport behind Sam Snead (82 career wins), and just four majors behind Jack Nicklaus (18 major wins), but with his back injury seemingly healed, and the transgressions off the course appearing to be well in the rearview mirror, Tiger seems happy and relaxed on the course, which is a scary thought for fellow competitors.
Heading into the 2018 Masters, Johnson and Justin Rose are the favorites to win the historic tournament, but there’s Tiger lurking in the top five of winning odds, according to Golf Digest.
Yes, he hasn’t won a tournament since 2013, and hasn’t played in a major since 2015, but I just have a gut feeling that come Sunday morning, Tiger is going to be sporting his trademark red Nike polo, striking fear into other golfers near the top of the Masters leaderboard. In fact, I think Tiger punctuates his return with a thrilling win at Augusta.
Of course, I could look like a complete idiot come Friday evening if he misses the weekend cut. But based on how he’s looked in the few tournaments early in 2018 that he’s played in, Tiger looks ready to climb back atop the mountain.
The game of golf will be better for it, should Tiger don the green jacket once again come Sunday evening.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. An avid golfer, Josh thinks he’s much better at the wonderful game of golf than he really is and causes more laughter than fear in his fellow players on the course. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.