The most important season for the remainder of Tiger Woods's career is 2012. That season will look infinitely better with a win this week than it would with a loss.
Tiger currently leads the Chevron World Challenge by three shots halfway through the round. While the field is strong, it's not especially deep. Only 18 players are in it.
It's also a tournament hosted by Woods at a course he's familiar with.
All of which indicates this tournament is not a big one for Tiger. Before his Thanksgiving 2009 car crash, that would be a correct assessment.
But now, it couldn't be more off base.
More than anything, Tiger needs to get the taste of winning back. We know he can have good rounds. Even though he hasn't won in more than two years, he's had plenty of good rounds.
What he hasn't done is put four good rounds together against a field of professional golfers to win. Winning this week would tell him that mentally and physically, he still has it.
It still wouldn't do anything for 2011. After all, this isn't even an official event. But looking forward to 2012, the value of a win here is immeasurable to him.
Again, 2012 is the most important year of Tiger's career. If he plans on breaking Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors, he needs to notch at least one major win next season.
There are mental reasons at play there. But more importantly, it's simple math.
Tiger will be 36 at the end of the month and has 14 majors now. If he doesn't win a major next year, he'll need four wins after the age of 37 just to tie Nicklaus.
It's not likely.
But winning this week would tell him he can still win. Putting four good rounds together against fellow professionals goes well beyond the prestige or lack of depth in the field.
Another failure would bring too much doubt going forward. Fortunately, that's not going to happen.
This is finally Tiger's time to close things out in a tournament. When he does, it will only be a sign of things to come.
This tournament is important to Tiger, because he hasn't won in so long. Next year, this tournament won't mean nearly as much to him.
Look for 2012 to be a big year as he gets closer to Nicklaus's career mark.