Still the one

You may have heard that Tiger Woods dropped out of the Top 100 in the World Golf Rankings. He comes out of seclusion this week to play in the Masters, his first tournament in months. The last time he won a major championship, George W. Bush was president of the United States. But only the truest of true believers expect him to contend this week. The most realistic hope is that he won’t embarrass himself.

And he’s still the biggest story in golf.

This says a couple of things. One, it says that Tiger Woods was more than just an extraordinary golfer. He was a transformational figure. He was the golfer you rooted for, against, the biggest star not only in his sport, but all of sports. There had never been a golfer quite like him.

But it says something else, too. No one else has come along who was big enough to fill his role, and it seems like no one will. Rory McIlroy is a fantastic golfer and, by all accounts, a nice guy. He’s looking to complete the career grand slam at this year’s Masters, but, even when he flings a club into the water — like he did a couple weeks ago — people mostly yawn. Jordan Spieth looks like he will become a great player. Patrick Reed seems happy to play golf’s villain. Rickie Fowler wears fun clothes. Again, yawns.

Even Bubba Watson, who has won two Masters and who hits the longest, craziest, wildest shots in golf, can’t seem to capture anything more than a cult following, and he’s a golfer named “Bubba.”

It all goes to show you how remarkable Tiger Woods was. He gives no reason at all to believe he will ever be an elite golfer again, but this week, people will hope for a miracle from him.

The landscape just looks too bleak without him.

— Joe Posnanski

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