While many people will claim that Tiger Woods isn't officially "back" until he wins a major, his performance this week at Augusta should end the severely drawn-out debate entirely.
Woods—or anyone else ever, for that matter—may never again be mid-2000s Tiger, but he is undoubtedly back—back to being the clear-cut, No. 1 golfer in the world.
All arguments should begin and end with this: Woods finished the 2013 Masters at five-under in a tie for fourth place, yet nearly everyone on the face of the planet is disappointed in him.
That's the sign of a legend.
Usually, when someone finishes in the top five at the biggest tournament in the world, on the most famous course in the world and rakes in over $300,000 in the process, it's one of the best performances of their career. It's met with ecstasy, enthusiasm, euphoria, exaltation and all of those other joyous "E" words.
For Woods, it was met with disappointment. Frustration. Failure. Asinine narratives about how he's a choke artist and will never win a major again.
Rick Reilly @ReillyRick
Worst break in Masters history might be Tiger's Friday. Ball doesn't hit flagstick: He's -7. No two-shot penalty. He's -9. Leader by 1.2013-4-14 22:29:45
Mike Greenberg @Espngreeny
Tiger never made the charge today. But, in the end, he played as well as anyone this week. Those two shots the difference. #Masters2013-4-14 22:21:03
Believe me, playing the "what if" game is one of my least favorite things ever—down there with eating vegetables and watching Two Broke Girls.
Adam Scott deserves all the credit in the world for his historical, steadfast, redemption-filled victory. But the fact of the matter is that Woods played well enough to win.
Via Masters.com, he hit 65.28 percent of the greens, extraordinarily better than the field average of 60.2.
He had six sand saves in seven chances.
His putter was working.
His driver—albeit a little inaccurate—was as dangerously powerful as ever. He went four-under in the last 11 crucial holes of the tournament, rising to the occasion when he absolutely had to.
Golf is a game of inches, and Woods found himself on the wrong side of that cliche this week, dropping to fourth place because of some bad luck.
Yet, he's being criticized like he just failed to make the cut.
Woods' final finish may have fallen short of expectations, but while some of the other top-ranked golfers in the world came to uninspiring finishes, he did nothing except fortify his case as the favorite at the U.S. Open in June.