It's like Tiger Woods is a magnet for the spotlight.
Despite multiple unforeseen, poor showings in his seven tournaments this season, Woods remains the center of attention, the top priority, and most telling of all, the No.1 contender heading into this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, OH.
Realistically, why wouldn't Tiger be the favorite this week?
In 10 attempts, Woods has won this event seven times, and placed T-2, fourth and T-4, so wouldn't it seem to be common sense that he has the momentum headed into this event?
Well, not exactly.
Tiger won the Masters at Augusta National four times (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), the British Open at St. Andrews twice (2000, 2005), as well as the AT&T National Pro-Am and US Open at Pebble Beach in 2000, but failed to capture any of these victories this season in spite of his comfort and luminous past at these stages.
But these were not just surprises because Woods lost these tournaments, but more so because he was right where he wanted to be—in contention and in the limelight.
Astonishment has been the theme of the 2010 PGA Tour season.
The golf world has been stunned by European dominance, a host of youthful, unknown winners, and unbelievably low scoring (two 59's and three 60's).
But as Justin Rose earned multiple victories, 25-year-old Dustin Johnson pounded 300+ yard drives, 46-year-old Paul Goydos fired a 59, and Louis Oosthiuzen unexpectedly conquered the British Open, has the public lost interest in professional golf?
Regardless of the array of fresh, thrilling, and unpredictable events that have ensued this season, the public has had a one-dimensional perspective centered around a single question, "Will Tiger win another major?"
After a decade of Tigermania, when Tiger is not the mix it just isn't the same.
TV ratings prove it, editorials enhance it, and in general, when Woods isn't winning there's a tangible sense of apathy.
But in line with the season's theme, Tiger's inability to reestablish himself as the untouchable competitor he once was has had an unanticipated dual effect.
First, it's generated a gradual decline in the public's interest in golf. But it has simultaneously produced a new-found thrill because of the intrigue inscribed in the mystery of Woods' performance.
So, as Tiger competes this week with a shadow of doubt cast over his abilities, will Firestone Country Club—his golf sanctuary—be the setting for his resurgence?