The curious case of Tiger Woods

At this time last week, Tiger Woods was still looking for his first win at an official PGA event since his life came crashing down on him in late 2009.

Now, Tiger is the favorite by many odds-makers to win the Masters at Augusta National next weekend.

What changed?

If anyone needed proof that golf revolved around Tiger, check out the media next week when they are discussing the Masters. How can a guy with one victory in three years be considered the best golfer on the planet?

Expectations for Tiger are unprecedented. Imagine LeBron James averaging two points a game for two years and people still going to games saying he’s the best player on the court. It just wouldn’t happen.

Except when it comes to Tiger, people have been waiting for this moment. At last year’s PGA Championship in August, he missed the cut by six strokes. It’s not even like he was close to having an opportunity to contend in the tournament. Yet, one victory later and he’s the favorite to win the biggest golf tournament of the year?

It’s not like golf is without stars. Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood all have been popular winners in the past few years. But according to popular odds-makers, Tiger has a better chance to win the next major tournament over those heavyweights.

It doesn’t make sense.

Don’t get me wrong. I love watching Tiger. I’ll admit that I’ve watched about 15 minutes of golf since Tiger’s crash compared to watching the last round of major tournaments just to get a glimpse of Tiger’s magic.  On the 16th hole of the 2005 Masters when Tiger chipped the ball to the edge of the hole before it dropped in and threw a huge fist pump and drew roars from the crowd is one of the best moments in sports that I’ve ever watched live. But that was seven years ago. It’s not like I think Michael Jordan could still be the best player in the NBA today.

Yes, Tiger playing well is good for golf because mainly all the interest in the sport lies with his performance. Many casual golf fans want to know how Tiger is doing before figuring out who is on top of the leaderboard, but does that mean Tiger should be considered the best player on the planet after his pitiful play in the past few years?

If a no-name guy played as poorly as Tiger, they would be more unknown than Sabby Piscitelli in the NFL. Before Sunday, Tiger was on a 132-week drought. At one point last year, he was ranked as low as No. 58 in the world. He hasn’t won a major tournament since the U.S. Open in 2008. Somebody explain to me why he is the favorite, or even better yet why will everyone be watching him?

It’s not like Tiger is Tim Tebow. At least Tebow was winning and seems more genuine than my grandma’s cookies. Tiger’s former coach, Hank Haney, recently released a tell-all book on how self-centered he is. For example, when Tiger is done eating at a restaurant, that means everybody else is done whether they are finished or not.

So why does everybody watch Tiger?

That’s the greatest mystery in golf. It’s like everybody is used to watching the legend perform his tricks and figure that they have to come back someday. 132 weeks hasn’t been enough to convince people that nothing is left in Tiger’s tank and we are just watching a shadow of what he used to be.

Although golf is different type of sport, one where you can find legends playing well long after their prime. Jack Nicklaus found a way to finish in the top-10 at the 1998 Masters. Nicklaus was 58 and playing with hip problems. But do I expect to see Tiger to do the same next weekend?

You know where I will be next Sunday afternoon? I’ll be in front of my television watching Tiger Woods and hoping to see greatness.