As I watched Tiger Woods obliterate the front nine of Augusta National on Sunday at the Masters, I couldn’t help but slide closer and closer to the edge of my couch. It was as if Tiger’s expanding gravitational pull was sucking me in. When he made eagle on No. 8—getting him to five under on his round and squarely in the hunt—I literally fell off the couch.
No other golfer in the world has that effect on me (or anyone else, I suspect). You may not want to admit it, but I’ll bet you were sucked in too. We all were. On the 25th anniversary of Jack’s historic win at the 1986 Masters, we were about to see golf's next great comeback written in stunning fashion. It was fait accompli.
Only then, seemingly out of nowhere, it wasn’t.
Tiger cooled off. He made a bad bogey on No. 12. He didn’t birdie No. 13. He missed a gimme eagle on No. 15. And just like that, his run was over. The 2011 Masters was not the “Return of the King” that I had been expecting.
Few people talked about it, but Tiger would have vaulted all the way up to No. 1 in the world rankings had he won that day.
Now, once again, the jury is fiercely divided on what the future will hold for Mr. Woods. I think he still has great golf ahead of him, but I must concede that I am not so optimistic about his chances of once again reigning supreme over the golf world like a Greek god.
Some of that has to do with the state of his game, but more of it has to do with the young guns on the PGA Tour.
I don’t think there has ever been a time when the under-30 crowd was stronger on the PGA Tour than it is today. These guys don’t just hit it a mile and make birdies; they know how to win too.
And they are not afraid of Tiger one bit.
Let’s rank the young guys who may keep Tiger from getting back to No. 1 in the world.