Never. There's never been a return this sought after, this media-crazed. When Tiger Woods told the world that he'd be back for the WGC-Accenture Match Play tournament last week, I can't deny my heart skipped a beat: finally. He's back.
It's been eight months since we saw that image on the 18th green at Torrey Pines, and it was quite possibly the most incredible championship performance in sports history. Tiger won the U.S. Open on one leg and then, seemingly out of nowhere, called it quits for the season. His first half of the 2008 season was almost good enough to earn him Player of the Year honors over Padraig Harrington, who won two majors. But, when Eldrick traded the clubs for crutches, much of the golf fanbase sat open-mouthed with their shoulders and arms raised in the classic "what the hell" face. It was like opening pint of your favorite ice cream, taking a bite, savoring its deliciousness, then having every other molecule destroyed immediately, without the slightest notice. You wanted more; you needed more. But there was no more. Not for eight stinkin' months.
The wait is almost over. There are only three more days until Tiger tees it up again. And he'll do it in a tournament he won last year in astonishing fashion and two times previously. The guy loves match play. I can't think of a better tournament to return for. The March Madness of Golf. Why not slather some puréed awesome-sauce all over that ice cream you discovered hiding in the back of the freezer?
I will say though, that what gets me the most is that after 254 days off, Tiger still gets the number one overall seed. That's pure insanity. Just ridiculous. His strangehold on golf's top spot is stronger than the grip a new bride has on her groom's unmentionables. I bet that Tiger could even go on sabbatical for a decade and return as Numero Uno, with a mound of points the size of Lefty's manboobs to spare. But I'm getting ridiculous; Mickelson slimmed down a while ago...he's been Tiger's bitch for his entire career...no more need be said. There's just nothing in sports that compares to the gap between Tiger and everyone else. Let's move on.
A crop of players has jumped into the spotlight while Tiger has lurked in the shadows, biding his time: Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Paddy Harrington, and heck, even Mickelson showed he's still a force to be reckoned with after a convincing win this weekend.
What it means: nothing. Tiger will reign supreme once again.
I wanted to touch on this comeback and amazing adrenaline-booster to sports in the dry period that is late-February because I can guarantee I won't find the time between now and Thursday, when I leave for a four-day vacation to a national conference of student journalists and newspapers in San Diego. Yep, it will be as awesome as it sounds and nope, I won't be 21 yet. Unfortunate? Yes, but I shall live through the day.
Have a good week everyone, I'll be back with the details of my trip next Sunday. And in the meantime, cherish the comeback. We won't see anything like it again for a long, long time.