Will he or won't he?
That is the biggest question surround Tiger Woods and the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional right now.
Everyone wants to know if he will or won't be playing in this years contest. He has been less than upfront with us about the injuries that causes him to miss Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament this past week, so him sitting out is not entirely out of question.
My logic tells me Tiger will tee it up at Congressional. He played AND won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines with a bum leg, so I see no reason he cannot do it again.
Here are 18 reasons Tiger needs to play this year's U.S. Open.
The game of golf needs Tiger Woods.
With the number of rounds plummeting and courses struggling to keep their doors open, golf needs any boost it can get.
And over the 15 years, Tiger has been that boost. He became one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet, bringing the game to the forefront of thought.
But his struggles, combined with a down economy, have hurt the game. By playing in the U.S. Open, Tiger is bringing much-needed attention back to the game.
If ever there was a popular time to scrutinize Tiger Woods' every action, that time is now.
His game is a mess, and he seems to be unable to fix it. It is easy to attack him, so people do.
The fact of the matter is a win or high finish at Congressional will silence the critics.
It is hard to criticize someone who wins. And although Tiger has won in the past, the 600 or so days since his last victory make the win seem like decades ago.
Despite what Tiger claims, his confidence is low right now.
His putting is dismal, and his driving ability is not much better. Unfortunately, those are not things that get 100 percent fixed by practice.
Tiger NEEDS to play.
He has hardly played the past couple of seasons. When he has played, it has not been at his expected level of play.
The reason: confidence.
To play well, Tiger needs confidence. To be confident, Tiger needs to play well. The only way to do that is to simply play.
It is the official benchmark of the game. It is the number of majors Jack Nicklaus has won.
Throughout his career, Tiger's stated goal has been to win more majors than Jack. Currently, Tiger has 14 majors.
There is a lot of work left to do.
To beat Jack, Tiger needs to start winning majors again. And you cannot win majors if you do not play in them.
This is the first time I ever can recall Tiger being ranked outside the top 10.
Granted, I am fairly young, but it is just plain weird.
With Luke Donald becoming the No. 1 last week, we have seen a host of players take over Tiger's top spot since he finally shot down the rankings. And while the merits of the Official World Golf Ranking system may be debated, the most sure-fire way to become No. 1 is to win.
If Tiger still wants to be the best, he needs to be No. 1. A great place to start the journey to the top is Congressional.
With Tiger out of the picture, most of the golf talk is centered around Europeans. And they way they are playing it should be.
The top three players in the world are European. While Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson round out the top five in the world, there is really no question as to which continent has the better players.
If Tiger were to come back strong, American golf would become relevant quickly. It is hard to ignore a golfer with his pedigree playing well.
This reason may seem petty.
But there is no way you can sit here and tell me that you do not love to see a good ole' Tiger Woods fist pump.
It is a great sight and brings a smile to my face every time. When Tiger throws a right hook, I'm right there on my couch throwing a right hook with him.
Unfortunately, we have not seen enough of the classic fist pumps recently.
I miss them. I need them.
Just a few years ago, every putt Tiger needed to make was dead center.
That, however, was one marriage and many injuries ago. Now, Woods struggles to make the putts he used to make with regularity.
Tiger can work on his stroke 24 hours a day on his own private putting green. It is not going to help. He needs to putt in competition and all the pressures associated with it.
Again, Tiger is not going to perfect his swing on range. The range has no pressure. The range is just Tiger and his mind.
The course is a whole new monster. There are fans, other players and pressure.
The only way for Tiger to become comfortable with his swing changes is to witness the results in a tournament.
He started to see them at the Masters. If Tiger is going to be a threat later in the season, he needs to play at Congressional and groove his swing.
Hear me out on this one.
There are two types of tournaments on the PGA Tour. Those that Tiger plays in and those that Tiger does not.
Assuming Tiger does not win this thing (which is not a safe assumption), the winner will always have an asterisk by his names in the minds of many. The asterisk will specify that Tiger Woods did not play in the tournament.
Argue all you want about Tiger being hurt and not at his best. Argue he won't be a factor. I'll tell you to look at replays of the 2011 Masters. Then you can tell me that.
With Tiger only playing sparingly, PGA Tour commissioner has done a very admirable job.
In a down economy, it would be easy for sponsors to head for the exits. While some have, Finchem has done a wonderful job of keeping current ones and finding new backers for events.
If Tiger plays in the U.S. Open, it will signal to other sponsors that Tiger is going to start playing again soon. In essence, Tiger makes Finchem's job about a million times easier.
Even today, sponsors still want Tiger.
There was a time when Tiger seemed immortal. Those days, however, are long gone.
And throughout his entire career, Tiger has not shown he can handle adversity well. The one exception, perhaps, is his 2008 U.S. Open victory. During that tournament, he battled significant injury to bring the tournament to a playoff, eventually needing 19 extra holes to win.
But since then, Tiger has shown that adversity brings him down. Granted, he has dealt with an enormous amount misfortune, but in the end, he was the source of it all.
Woods playing at Congressional would show he can handle adversity, both physical and mental.
Tiger has to be worried about his ability to compete. He has to be worried about his ability to string together four solid rounds of golf.
Tiger struggled with that at the Masters. You cannot have one bad round in a major and expect to win.
At this year's U.S. Open, Tiger needs to prove it to himself that he can still compete with these "young guns." I have no doubt that he still can. He just needs to show himself that it is still in him.
Johnny Miller enjoys criticizing Tiger. How else could you explain comments like, "It's like Humpty Dumpty. He was on the high wall, way above all the other players and had a great fall, and there's pieces all over the place trying to put them together."
If Tiger plays, Miller cannot criticize him for not being tough enough. Instead, Miller will have to keep beating a dead dog and criticize Tiger for his relatively poor play.
Golf is not normal if Tiger is not a factor.
For the game to become normal again, Tiger needs to play in tournaments.
The game is more entertaining to watch when Tiger is playing. The game is more fun to analyze when Tiger is playing.
In essence, golf has become reliant on Tiger.
People watch golf on TV when Tiger is playing.
If he isn't, well, forget it.
The U.S. Open may be a little different but I will bet the purse that the ratings will be higher with Tiger teeing it up. I would be willing to bet double the purse that the ratings will skyrocket if Tiger is in contention come Sunday.
Some may argue that Tiger never lost his swagger. If that is true, he probably should have lost it. He had every reason to.
Still, playing in the U.S. Open will help him get the, "I'm the greatest player over the last couple of decades" walk back.
Call it arrogant, but I love that walk. I love to see Tiger look like he is better than everyone.
The reason: he is.
Tiger needs to win again. It will immediately stop all talk about his struggles.
In order to win, Tiger needs to play.
Simple as that.