NESN Debates: Would You Like to See Tiger Woods Bounce Back?

NESN Debates: Would You Like to See Tiger Woods Bounce Back? Editor's note: Each week, NESN.com's editorial staff will debate a topic via email in a feature called "Field Judges." We'll post the conversation and the ruling on NESN.com.

This week's question: Do you want to see Tiger Woods become a factor on the PGA Tour again?

Ben Watanabe, Assistant Editor, 1:49 p.m., Monday:

A lot of sports fans like to root for underdogs. The idea of a little guy overcoming a big, bad dude appeals to them, I guess, because we all feel little at some point in our lives. I'm different. I like to root for excellence. I was crushed when the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII in 2008, not just because I'm a fan, but because I wanted to be able to say I saw a team do what everyone had previously said was impossible by going a full season undefeated.

This is why I'm rooting for Tiger to bounce back, even though I disapprove of his life choices and I feel the public and his sponsors were completely justified in shunning him. By way of his TV commercials, people welcomed him into their living rooms. By way of his own words, he convinced parents that he was a suitable role model for their kids. He wasn't. He lied to us.

Yet, I can't forget what it was like watching him win his first major in 1997, or how he won the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. He's the greatest athlete of my lifetime, barely ahead of Michael Jordan and well ahead of Michael Phelps, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Tyson and Lance Armstrong. That's why I can't wait for him to get back to something that resembles his old form, because Tiger's psyche will only allow him to continue playing if he achieves excellence again. He'll reel off another two or three more major championships and then one day at the PGA or the Masters, some no-name will have a round to remember and knock him off. Most of the golf-watching world will be rooting for the no-name because he's the underdog, but I'll root for him because Tiger will again be so good, it will take total excellence by the challenger to knock him off. Tiger's absence has shown that he brings out the greatest in other golfers in ways only he can.

John Beattie, Associate Editor, 1:59 p.m., Monday:

The golf world can and will go on without the fist-pumping, victory red-wearing.

I'll admit it (will you?): Every time I first turn on or ask about any PGA tournament, the first words out of my mouth are, "How's Tiger doing?" Sure, he's one of the most exciting athletes to follow, but what's better than one dominant player taking home hardware every week? How about a whole cast of likeable players battling it out all weekend long?

Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner aren't the most exciting names on the tour, but anyone who watched Sunday afternoon's coverage can admit that compelling golf can come from all shapes and sizes. Did Tiger save or reinvent golf and its international interest? Perhaps. Is he one of the most influential athletes in the world? Probably. But in an era flooded with sports superstars, and in an individualistic game such as golf, one could say that I'm rooting for the story, not the golfer. In fact, I want to root for eight golfers, not one. A three-hole playoff? Yes, please. I'd like to see the world's toughest courses break down the weak and force the strong to adjust and overcome adversity. I want to see 12 people bang out phenomenal Sundays –- not one conceited jerk rattle off a new course record.

Would I mind seeing Tiger bounce back? Despite my personal opinions on Tiger Woods, the person, no. Iit wouldn't be the worst thing seeing an athlete making a triumphant return to glory. Would I like to see him bounce back, though? No thanks. I appreciate what he did for the game of golf, but his time has passed and the torch has been handed off. His on-course, off-course, media-room antics have gone too far. No matter how many private golf courses he builds in his backyard(s), he'll likely never make it back to the "Tiger Slam" Woods we all once rooted for  — and I'm perfectly happy without him.

Give me the Luke Donalds, Keegan Bradleys, Steve Strickers,  Jason Dufners, Nick Watneys and Rory McIlroys and I'll give you exciting, respectable and likeable Tiger-less golf.

Mike Cole, Assistant Editor, 8:12 a.m., Tuesday:

First off, it really doesn't bother me what Tiger Woods does on his own time. As long as he's not breaking the law, who am I to judge what he does in his time away from the course? So from that standpoint, Tiger's personal life isn't going to keep me from wanting him to bounce back.

More importantly, neither is the landscape of golf today.

I certainly understand the argument that Beattie and many others make in regards to the unpredictability and the storylines that comes with a Tiger-less field, but I just can't help but yearn for the days when, if Tiger was on a course, history could be made. Now, if Tiger were to return to the form that made him practically untouchable, then yes, that might not be the best thing for the game. However, you cannot deny that having Tiger Woods around is better for golf than not having him around.

Golf needs Tiger to bounce back, although not necessarily to the stratospheric levels he once teed 'em up at. Golf just needs Tiger to be relevant again. Maybe now more so than ever. Fans who want to chastise Tiger for his personal life will tune in on Sundays if Tiger is in contention simply to root against him. And those who want to see him do well will be there anyway.

A golf tournament with Tiger Woods in contention is more exciting than one in which he doesn't make the cut. That's what happens when you have one of the most polarizing athletes in the world involved. That's good for golf, though, and what works for golf works for me.

Ben Watanabe, 12:10 p.m., Tuesday:

Everyone does love a villain. As much as Red Sox fans hate to admit it, the postseason is a lot more fun when the Sox play the Yankees, and for all the Patriots' success in the last decade, Rex Ryan has injected new life into the rivalry with the Jets.

People would tune in to root against Tiger, as Mike notes. That as much as anything is an argument to support his comeback. Golf has so many nice guys. It would be fun for golf to have a bad guy for once.

Ricky Doyle, Assistant Editor, 11:50 a.m., Wednesday:

Reading your guys' responses, the one thing that stood out to me is Beattie's comment about asking, "How's Tiger doing?" before anything else when it comes to golf tournaments. It's true, and I can honestly say that I'm guilty of doing the same thing on multiple occasions. But it's that question that says all that needs to be said.

No other golfer in the world commands that kind of attention and sparks that kind of curiosity. Even as Tiger takes a backseat to new faces, he's still a major storyline going into every tournament. Will he play? Will he make the cut? Will he return to glory?

So I'm not so sure it's important for him to bounce back to his dominant self immediately because he's already taken golf to new heights by becoming, like Ben said, one of the best athletes our generation has ever seen. He's also become one of the most controversial. Love him or hate him, when it comes to sharing opinions on Tiger's on-the-course and off-the-course antics, everyone has a dog in the fight — even the new humanitarian version of Michael Vick.

But while I personally have enjoyed seeing fresh, and likeable, faces like Keegan Bradley and Darren Clarke come away with hardware, there's still part of me that yearns for the old Tiger Woods and thinks a return to dominance would ultimately be for the best.

I want to be able to ask, "How's Tiger doing?" and be told that he's battling atop the leaderboard, rather than asking, "What's Tiger doing?" and receive some mistress joke we've heard a thousand times. Am I hanging onto the glory days? Maybe. But Tiger has historically been just too good, and he's still too young for me to believe he doesn't have some more major wins left in him.

Like I said, I enjoy the new crop of talent that is being showcased during his struggles. But I'd love it even more if those golfers could succeed while going up against vintage Tiger. It's those David versus Goliath kinds of matchups that enhance storylines that much more.

RULING

The general consensus seems to be that golf needs — or at the very least, could use — Tiger to be good again. Whether that means him returning to vintage form or just becoming relevant again doesn't matter. Having a polarizing, even villainous player like Tiger to complement all the feel-good stories would undoubtedly be a positive for golf. People want to be able to ask, "How's Tiger doing?" again on the final round so they can root against him, root for him or simply watch him play.

What do you think of the ruling? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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