Tiger’s return to golf is good for everyone

Tiger Woods is back and, as a fan of golf, I couldn’t be happier. The last couple of years he’s fallen from his perch as golf’s greatest pitchman to one of the most hated athletes in sport.

Tiger Woods is back and, as a fan of golf, I couldn’t be happier.

The last couple of years he’s fallen from his perch as golf’s greatest pitchman to one of the most hated athletes in sport.

Instead of cementing his status among the all-time greats, Tiger was lumped in with some of sports’ least savory characters — freed dog fighters, murderers, wife beaters, rapists, the egomaniacal — all because he couldn’t keep his zipper zipped.

His actions are indefensible, but he also became a casualty of today’s culture of tearing down those who stand on high.

But if there is one thing we as a society like better than tearing someone down is the comeback story.

It’s a story that has seen Michael Vick become a hero again, Ben Roethlisberger and Kobe Bryant forgiven by the masses — well at least their transgressions forgotten — and Ray Lewis put together a hall of fame career.

Now Tiger will attempt the very same trick.

It will be Woods’ third attempted comeback in his storied career.

His first one after major surgery on his knee in 2008 was very successful.

His second career comeback came last year after taking time to focus on the family and go to sex therapy rehab and it was an unmitigated disaster.

Now with this latest attempt he has tried to wipe the slate clean, firing swing coaches and his long-time caddy Stevie Williams. He is also hoping his repaired knee will be able to stand up to the rigors of PGA tour play this time.

But the biggest difference with this comeback is that for the first time the sport isn’t living and dying on Tiger.

The PGA has done its best to move on this season and the early returns have been solid with TV ratings bouncing back to near 2009 levels — Tiger’s last great season on the tour — after a disastrous 2010 for CBS and NBC.

If he can recapture even a slice of his former glory, it will be all gravy.

And really, everyone wins in this situation.

Tiger’s return means a further increase in ratings. It means a potential boost in sponsorship. And it takes pressure off his heir apparent — Rory McIlroy.

The biggest winners, though, would be the fans.

Quite simply, Tiger makes it interesting.

He is one of the most polarizing characters in golf’s history.

He is either the ultimate bad guy or someone you can’t help but watch.

Eldrick Woods can be demonstrative on the course, and has a reputation of not being the most cuddly cat off of it — unless of course he was feeding his addiction. And now there is that extra layer of slime that sent a number of his own sponsors fleeing.

But damn if he can’t play golf like no one else.

He is worth the price of admission.

He brings an energy and creativity to the game that is lacking greatly.

The last year-and-a-half has been some of the most vanilla golf in 20 years. The biggest buzz usually coming from whatever Rickie Fowler is wearing on any given day.

And the world’s No. 1 ranking has become a hot potato that no one seemingly wants to hang on to.

Even the recently anointed Tiger successor is about as exciting as a pancakes for breakfast. McIlroy — who is known as one of more humble players in golf — admitted as much. To be the game’s next superstar and win multiple majors, he needs to be meaner, he needs to be colder, he needs to be more cutthroat on the course.

He needs to be more like Tiger.

This time around we’ll either get to enjoy watching Woods fail to climb back to the top. Or we’ll be treated to a final historic push as he chases down Jack Nicklaus.

Either way we all win.

Welcome back Tiger.