I watched the third round of the Chevron Challenge today and agreed with the television pundits that Tiger looks like he’s on his way back. The question is: how far back will he come? I don’t think that anyone believed that he’d pull a Baker-Finch or a Duval and drop off the golf planet entirely (although the thought has crossed my mind). On the other hand,there’s a huge gap between playing like a solid Tour player and returning to Tiger dominance.
I’m often accused of being overly critical of Tiger on this blog. From my perspective, however, I’m just being realistic. Tiger’s thirty six, and has had multiple knee surgeries. The PGA and European Tours now have a huge stockpile of impressively talented players. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that’s a lot to overcome. In my analysis, each month that passes while we wait for “Tiger’s Return” makes it more unlikely that we’ll see it.
But I don’t know whether I have a case of confirmation bias in this instance, or if Tiger’s supporters do. So I’m going to pose two questions that can be answered empirically: First, what evidence would convince you that Tiger is back as a major force on the Tour? Conversely, what would convince you that his career has entered its sunset—or will be merely average from here on?
Here are my answers:
I’ll be convinced that he’s back as a major force if he wins a Major and five or six other tournaments over the course of this next year. That, I think, is the minimum standard Tiger set for himself in his era of dominance. Two wins and no major or a single major makes him no better than Keegan Bradley (a fine player, to be sure, but not Old Tiger in his dominance).
On the other hand, if Tiger fails to meet either of those standards this next year, I’ll be absolutely convinced his era of dominance is over. That’ll be three years without a Major, and three without a multiple win season. And as I said before, each passing year makes his return less likely.