Tiger's past value is unmistakable. Much of the money in the game now is thanks to pre-scandal Tiger and his uncanny ability to dominate the game. Since his ignominious return to the game following the exposure of his scandalous behavior, his play has often been a little, well, scandalous itself.
After taking off a good chunk of the '11 season due to injury, Tiger appears to be back and on the hunt to retake his stance on top of the golfing world. Since November '11 when he was ranked No 58 in the world, he has been on track to do so placing well at a few tournaments (even with a round from hell where nothing went right) not to mention his first win in over 107 weeks at the Chevron World Challenge.
He may not be the Tiger fans once loved, it still makes for one heck of a golfer. When he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational (and climbed up to No 6 in the rankings) the talk began anew on whether he is the best in the game.
That brings the original question back into mind—what is Tiger's value to the game?
During his prime the game had practically become a race for second place because Tiger was just that good. In a way, that made the game a little dull, but thanks to Tiger playing the way he did the game could still be exciting to watch. The way the purses have gone up since he turned pro is proof enough of that.
When Tiger took a break from the game there was some concern over whether it would still be as commercially viable as it was before. There were still a number of stars taking the green, but none with the wattage that Tiger Woods had. The only way the game could make up for the loss of Tiger was to just have enough stars rise up to make up for the loss of one (even one like Tiger).
Rise up they did.
Without Tiger, the game appeared to become ultra-competitive almost overnight. Numerous players were winning tournaments, new stars have begun to climb, and the overall competitive level of the game raised up enough that prior to the start of the 2011 Masters, there were seven players that stood to take over the position of the world's No 1 golfer with a win at Augusta.
The game has done very well without Tiger (the Tiger of old or any other version that happens to show up). So how is it going to do with him back (assuming no more injury issues or implosions)?
When the 2012 Masters kicks off next week the favorites will be Tiger and young Rory McIlroy, the current No 1, but there will be a slew of golfers that could very well take home the green jacket.
Charl Schwartzel would love to defend his title; as the No 7 ranked golfer in the world there is no reason to think he cannot. Luke Donald has owned the No 1 spot in the world rankings, and should never be counted out. Lee Westwood has been playing solid enough to earn the No 3 ranking; after coming in second in 2010 at Augusta he knows what it is like to get close to that first Major.
There is really no reason when anyone within the top ten in the world should be counted out since No 4-10 is separated by less than a point (Martin Kaymer, 5.76; Steve Stricker, 5.71; Tiger Woods, 5.59; Charl Schwartzel, 5.17; Justin Rose, 5.13; Webb Simpson, 5.10; Adam Scott, 4.96).
Yes, golf fans, there is nothing like some healthy competition to make the game more fun to watch. Tiger may be back, and if so that's great. If not, as it turns out a lot of other guys are really good golfers too.