TAMED: Tiger's performances have declined greatly in recent years, leaving only a man who still acts like he's one of the world's greatest athletes. Photo courtesy: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Can I ask you a question? Okay, I know I just did with the headline. But seriously, why do we still care?

It seems like every time Tiger steals another tournament victory, we’re willing to sell it blindly as the beginning of his great comeback. But who created this comeback? Better yet, who decided a comeback HAD to exist?
You see, with sports greats, there seems to be only two rules: you can either love the athlete or love the athlete’s performance. Think about every major sports figure you admire. You either like the why he/she plays the game or you like how he/she carries him or herself. It’s why people like Michael Strahan have been able to extend their celebrity much longer than Lawrence Taylor. Because, when the bones get brittle and the muscles get stuff, we can still love the man behind them.
In Tiger’s case, the ability to love him went out the window years ago. In fact, I won’t even cite his infidelity fallout at ground zero. When you listen to sportswriters and the people who have been around him for a very long time, it becomes pretty clear the guy has been about as hospitable as a real predatory cat more times than not. But what he could do with a club was so impossibly wonderful, we, as the people who romanticize athletics, had no choice but to look past his flaws.
Where his scandal WAS the beginning of the end was with his golf career. Maybe it was the extended period of time taken off or maybe it was the exponential rise in off-the-course distractions or maybe it was just pure coincidence, but that was clearly the beginning of the end for Tiger Woods the golfer.
Sure, there have been victories since. Major victories even. But those should have been expected. Careers don’t just freefall into the ground like a rocket devoid of fuel, they decline slowly over a period of time. Somewhere along the way, I think we all forgot that because we now seem incapable of classifying these wins for what they are: highpoints along a downward slope.
So if age is ruining the first reason for us to love him, Tiger himself is undoubtedly taking away the second. Maybe THAT’S why we still care about him? Because somewhere deep down we KNOW, once the golfer is gone, there’s no reason for us to care about him anymore.
Once he’s retired, Tiger Woods will be nothing more than another golfing great that also happened to be a huge dick. He’ll be that old guy that lives down the street that our kids resent because they’re constantly getting yelled at for being on his lawn (although his taste in women may make him more Hugh Hefner-esque).

Photo courtesy Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The point I’m trying to make here is, now that Tiger’s in the twilight of his career, there are so many BETTER stories in professional golf. There’s Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy. There’s Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh. We, as sports fans, are better than this. GOLF is better than this. We don’t need to cling to Tiger’s waning athletic career.

You see, if you only care about golf because of Tiger Woods, you don’t actually care about golf. You care about drama. You’re like the people who watch the NBA only to root against LeBron or watch baseball only to judge those who use steroids. It’s better those described above leave now before their need for Tiger in professional gold truly gets pathetic.
Tiger’s win at the memorial was great, shades of his former self even. But someone that talented is bound to have days like that. It doesn’t mean we’re on the verge of a great comeback, and it doesn’t mean that that is what we should be looking for as the U.S. Open begins today. It’s okay to follow Tiger while he’s still on the Tour, but let’s call what we’re seeing as it is, not as what we WANT it to be.
NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others, click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!