On the subject of whether a season can be considered “great” without a major championship title, Tiger Woods has vacillated over the years, often to fit his personal narrative. Never, though, has he veered from glorifying these four tournaments, imploring for years that these take priority and he hopes to have his game peaking for each one. And rightly so, too – his legacy is steeped in historical significance and golf history is forever produced at the majors.
What was previously believed to be a lost season for Woods received renewed hope Friday when he announced via Facebook that he would return for next week’s Quicken Loans National.
The big takeaway here, though, is less about his impending appearance at Congressional and more about what it represents. It’s about how Woods now has an opportunity to turn a lost season into a historically significant one.
Woods famously won 14 majors in the 12-year span from 1997-2008, but he just as infamously hasn’t won one since, his odometer now stuck on that ubiquitous milestone for more than six years. The announcement that he will compete next week – albeit rusty, as he admitted – means that if all goes according to plan in his recovery process, Woods should be fully prepared to play in each of the year’s final two majors.
And they could turn out to be a couple of crucial ones for him.
Next month’s Open Championship will be contested at Royal Liverpool, site of his emotional 2006 victory. Just months after his father’s death, Woods strategically picked apart the links course, keeping driver in the bag and the other contenders at arm’s length before falling into the embrace of caddie Steve Williams on the final green, crying unabashedly.
Just a few weeks later, the PGA Championship will be held at Valhalla Golf Club, where 14 years ago he staged a memorable duel with gallant underdog Bob May. Woods won that one in triumphant fashion, the third leg of his so-called Tiger Slam over two years.
While it’s foolish to use previous performance as an indicator of future success, Woods is the game’s preeminent creature of habit. When it comes to horses for courses, he’s Secretariat on the tracks he likes best.
He also ensures that this summer’s impending majors will become must-see TV. In a year filled with parity, when each of the first two lacked drama on Sunday’s back nine, Woods’ mere presence will again spark greater interest in these tournaments.
Don’t believe it? Just check out the reaction to Friday’s announcement, which immediately sent a Michelle Wie-led U.S. Women’s Open and an increasingly intriguing Travelers Championship to the back burner on the day’s news ledger.
Should he prevail at either Hoylake or Valhalla – or even just contend – Woods’ apparent lost season will be salvaged, not only providing a successful return from surgery, but perhaps more importantly a glint of optimism for the future.
Prior to Friday’s announcement, that optimism had been suspended. It will now return. That race toward history, toward the record that’s always meant the most to him, will continue at the major championships.