There are two ways to look at Tiger Woods' sudden-death playoff loss to Graeme McDowell on Sunday at the Chevron Challenge.
One, it is a huge collapse that would never have happened to the pre-2010 Tiger Woods, and it is another devastating emotional hurdle he must overcome heading into 2011.
Or two, Tiger played extremely well over the weekend, and one of the game's great players in Graeme McDowell simply caught him during the final round, needing an unbelievable putt on the last hole to catch him.
Whichever way you look at it, the loss did signify one thing: Tiger Woods went without a win in 2010.
My feeling about Tiger's Chevron collapse is this: Yes, it will leave another small scar for the world's No. 1 player, but the fact is, he can handle the wound. It is like getting a scratch on your face after you've had your stomach ripped open. It hardly matters at this point. The healing of the stomach has already begun, and the scratch is, if nothing else, irritating.
In the end, Tiger will look back at this weekend as a step forward. He dominated some of the world's best players for three days, and the old Tiger Woods was back in all his glory.
In fact, this weekend offered us an extremely positive look into the future of golf for the next several years: a return to strong play from Tiger Woods, coupled with a field week in and week out that is young, talented and confident that they can win any tournament against any player, including Woods.
This can only be good for the game.
It is likely Tiger Woods will never dominate the game like he once did. But he will win golf tournaments. They are simply going to be harder to win, and they likely will be similar to Sunday. If he doesn't close the deal against the likes of Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Paul Casey and several other top players in the world, they will beat him.
Tiger, with his improved swing and improved game, will compete with the world's best, an exclusive club of which he is a member, but he will not be handed golf tournaments anymore.
The victories he gets from 2011 and on may very well be, ultimately, more satisfying to him once they come.
There is no gain without some pain. Sunday's loss in California surely hurt Tiger, but in the end it may well be another lesson he had to learn to get back to where he wants to be—another eye-opener for a man who has looked like a deer in headlights for about a year now.
Nothing is going to come easy.