It was but a short time ago back in early April that Tiger Woods made a vintage eagle at the eighth hole during the final round at Augusta. That moment was an exclamation point on a front-nine charge that had all of us dreaming of majors past and believing once again that Tiger was back!
Now, after his back-nine failure and an injury withdrawal at the Players Championship, all of our doubts have returned and they're stronger than ever. Three weeks from now, Tiger Woods will get another chance to eliminate those doubts as he seeks his fourth United States Open victory.
Earlier this week, I took a trip down memory lane with my 7-year-old son and watched many of the greatest moments during Tiger's career. We watched one spectacular moment after another: his U.S. Amateur come-from-behind victories, the 1997 Masters runaway victory, his blind approach up the hill from the deep rough at Pebble Beach in 2000 and his incredible 220-yard approach from a bunker and over water at the 2000 Canadian Open.
We watched Tiger chasing after his putt at Valhalla in route to beating Bob May at the 2000 PGA, his St. Andrews dominance in 2000 and 2005, his impossible putt on 17 at the Players Championship, the up-the hill, down-the-hill birdie chip-in on 16 at Augusta, and his one-legged superhuman victory at the 2008 US Open, where he made one unbelievable shot after another.
As my son and I watched, I realized that for a typical professional, one memorable shot that defines a career is a rare achievement. Can you think of one signature moment for golfers like Jim Furyk, Davis Love, Angel Cabrera, Mike Weir? All of these golfers have won at least one major championship but none have contributed that one unforgettable moment ingrained in our memories.
The current group of "young guns", like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Rickie Fowler haven't collectively produced one incredible moment in route to a significant victory. Even for multiple major winners like Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els, there are few noteworthy and memorable shots. Mickelson has a few, but many of his were, unfortunately, epic collapses and not immortalized shots.
Even Jack Nicklaus' legendary career is defined more by longevity, consistency and an unequaled passion for managing the golf course than it is for immortal shots. Make no mistake, Nicklaus is the greatest and he owns several of those once-in-a-lifetime shots etched into golf's history, but the extraordinary and unbelievable remain the exclusive domain and legacy of Tiger Woods.
So as Father's Day and the United States Open approaches once again, I hope that Tiger returns to making the impossible seem commonplace. The feeling I had after Woods holed that eagle on Sunday at Augusta, the feeling we all had the first 12 years of his career is magical. I hope it's here to stay this time.