No matter what you think about Tiger Woods and there is lots to love and lots to dislike this is an undeniable fact.
The golf world is a more interesting place with Woods as king of the hill again.
Woods who will likely play in Charlotte at the Wells Fargo Championship again April 29-May 5, although he has not officially committed yet reclaimed golfs No. 1 ranking Monday with a win in Orlando, Fla. He will enter the Masters in April as the favorite, just like in the old days.
A grizzled 37 years old, Woods is long removed from the wunderkind who wowed us. His serial infidelity caused a major scandal and an expensive divorce. Ever since 2009, when he hit that fire hydrant and mistresses started spilling out, it has been impossible to look at him in exactly the same way.
But his golf game is back, and this makes his sport a lot cooler. Woods, who sank as low as No. 58 in the world in November 2011, boosts golf when hes playing well the way no one else can.
To see him struggle on the course is really not much fun. Those who saw him play the past two times he showed up at Quail Hollow Club he missed the cut in Charlotte in 2010 and 2012 know this to be true.
Struggling is just so commonplace in golf. It is the games signature, written all over the faces of the mortals who play it. The sinking feeling. The here we go again chip over the green. The drive into the water.
To watch Woods excel, though that is exceptional theater. Thats why he drives TV ratings when in contention on Sunday. Thats why 2007, when he won in Charlotte, was one of the best years of the Wells Fargo Championships first decade.
Woods used to be great in Charlotte before those two missed cuts. He has three top-5 finishes at Quail Hollow. When he missed the cut in 2012, he bemoaned what he called his combo platter swing. He was upset that he wouldnt be around for the weekend at what he called one of my favorite tour stops.
Woods is healthy once more, dating Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and has caught and surpassed his golfing peers once again. He has won three times in 2013 already, including back-to-back victories for the first time since 2009. The golfers who are 10 to 15 years younger than he is the ones who arent a bit afraid of him, because they didnt get beaten by him dozens of times in his prime now are seeing the Woods they grew up watching on television.
Woods at No. 1 just feels right. When Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer or Lee Westwood are at the top of that list, it just doesnt seem as important.
Woods still hasnt won a major since 2008. Id love to see Rory McIlroy and Woods battle it out at the Masters and beyond. That would be a rivalry with some juice.
For now, though, it is enough to see Woods at the top and realize hes not going to turn into David Duval, another former No. 1 who lost his game once and never really found it again.
Woods has returned to No. 1. And though hes no longer the prodigal son, it feels like hes finally home.
Fowler: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler