In hockey, it’s Ovechkin or Crosby; in basketball, LeBron or Kobe; Brady or Manning in football; Nadal or Federer in tennis; Ronaldo or Messi in soccer. Every major sport has the debate about its top two stars. But not in golf.

The only debate with Tiger Woods is if he is the best amongst all sports or merely his own.

Tiger Woods is a mega-star to the umpteenth degree, and it’s a gross understatement to say that the golfing world has missed him since his season-ending ACL surgery last June.

But finally, we can all rejoice at his return.

The last time we saw Tiger on the golf course, he was doing his best Kirk Gibson impression, hobbling around Torrey Pines to take home the 2008 U.S. Open title in dramatic fashion.

Unbeknownst to spectators, Tiger played the Open with a torn ligament in his left knee and a double stress fracture in his left leg. With the humility of a true champion, Tiger announced on his Web site that he wanted to disclose his injury at the appropriate time to ‘make sure the focus was on the U.S. Open.”

The focus was certainly on the Open, but Tiger was its centerpiece. After 91 holes, Tiger emerged victorious, capturing his third U.S. Open trophy.

It’s no wonder that the sports world has been anxiously anticipating his return.

Tiger is playing in this week’s WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, his first PGA Tour event in more than eight months. The tournament is the first at the brand new Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Tucson, Ariz. and it’s not the typical four-day format the golfers are used to.

The Accenture Match Play is the March Madness of golf: a 64-golfer, single-elimination tournament over a five-day span. Because of this format, Tiger could play anywhere from one round to seven, depending on how well he does.

Tiger has done well at the Match Play in the past. The tournament was first played in 1999 and Tiger has won three times, including last year when he set the mark for the tournament’s most lopsided win ever.

Tiger’s absence has undoubtedly hurt the game of golf.

Even with the emergence of young stars like Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas, back-to-back Major wins by Padraig Harrington and a U.S. victory in the Ryder Cup, ratings for the sport have plummeted without its star.

I don’t typically draw on video games for my information, but consider this: the ever-popular EA Sports makes a game for just about every sport on every system. ‘NHL Hockey,” ‘Madden NFL,” ‘FIFA Soccer, ‘NBA Live,” ‘NCAA Football and Basketball” and ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour” are a few of the games they offer.

Notice a common theme?

With the exception of ‘Madden NFL” a game that was first named after the hall-of-famer in 1988 the league or the sport defines every other game.

Not golf though. EA has been making ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour” since 1999.
If that doesn’t make a grandiose enough statement, maybe this will:

In his 13-year career, Woods is third all time in total number of tournament wins.

Perhaps even more impressive is his rsum in the Majors. Tiger has won 14 Majors, second only to Jack Nicklaus. However, the Golden Bear competed in 163 Majors, while Tiger has played in 52.

It’s not just that he’s won, but how he’s won that makes Tiger so incredible.

He holds at least a share of the record for the lowest score in relation to par at all four Majors and his 19 under-par at the British Open is the largest amount below par ever in a Major.

Tiger also holds the record for the largest margin of victory in a Major, winning the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes.

If not already, Eldrick ‘Tiger” Woods is well on pace to becoming the greatest golfer ever. His return to the sport could not be more anticipated. For now, we must watch and see what the next phase of Tiger’s career will bring.

Starr is a member of the class of 2009.

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