The Loop

What is the definition of 'back' for Tiger Woods?

October 07, 2011

It has become a popular phrase, whether watching in person or from afar, as we've followed Tiger Woods through these tumultuous couple of years. Woods does something right -- anything right, really -- and there are the inevitable cries of, "He's back!"

Woods shoots 68, as he did in the first round of the 2010 Masters, his first tournament back since the onset of his career-interrupting scandal, and we were convinced. "He's back!"


*Still waiting: The golf world has been looking for two years for a sign that Tiger Woods is back to his old self. Photo by Getty Images

Woods takes a lead into the final round of his own Chevron World Challenge, as he did at the end of last season, and there was no doubt. "He's back!"

Even on less-dramatic occasions, Woods has roped us in. An opening birdie, like the one he had Thursday in the first round of the Open.

A six-footer for par.

A drive in the fairway.

The point is, even as he's plummeted down the world rankings, there have been at least glimpses of the player that made us all so fascinated with Woods in the first place, something [we've touched upon several times before]( But it does inspire an important question: as he approaches his 36th birthday, what is now the definition of "back" for Woods?

Some might argue he just needs to string together a couple of good rounds, evidence of consistency that has been conspicuously absent the last couple of years. Others would say Woods won't be back until he wins. Still others will say it needs to be several wins, including majors. Or perhaps the best sign that Woods is back is merely a stretch in which he finds himself in contention even when he's not particularly playing well.

You've heard it before: when it comes to a player who famously won seven of 11 majors between the 1999 PGA Championship and the 2002 U.S. Open, the bar has been set at nosebleed heights. Yet even if Woods never returns to that level -- a fair assumption, by all accounts -- there is the possibility that he at least starts looking like Tiger Woods again.

So let's hear it. What's your definition of "back" for Woods? Respond in the comments section below or on our Golf Digest Facebook page.

-- Sam Weinman