The conclusion of the 2012 PGA Championship on Sunday afternoon reminded all golf fans of how fragile golf greatness can be, and how quickly it can pass from one player to the next.
Tiger Woods' hopes to capture major number 15 of his career once again came to an end on the tournament's weekend. Even a rain-shortened third round on Saturday proved to be just enough time for Woods to falter when it mattered most, leaving him in the wake of a surging Rory McIlory. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island became less a matter of surviving the elements as it became more a matter of keeping up with McIlory.
Unfortunately for Woods and his putter, McIlory was just too far out of reach.
With what has become possibly the most annoying topic in professional golf, the question of whether Tiger is "back" or not now seems like an afterthought. His top ranking in the FedEx Cup point standings does little to appease his critics, especially now since he remains in second place behind McIlory in the Official World Golf Rankings. But fans and critics alike seem to care less about his world ranking and more about his performance in the majors; the measuring stick Woods himself has chosen to use to define his career.
Make no mistake about it; Tiger Woods is still one of the best golfers on the planet. Is he the unquestionable "best in the world?" That depends on who you ask. Who has been a better player than Woods in 2012 on the PGA Tour? You'll be hard-pressed to offer a convicing alternative.
If we learned anything this week at the PGA, it is that Tiger is no longer the same dominating force he once was in the world of golf. The game has changed as a result of his greatness, and we all benefit from that realization (i.e. 16 different major winners in 16 events prior to Rory's win on Sunday). But in the meantime, a certain amount of magic is lost.
Sports fans enjoy seeing dominance on a grand scale. We all want to be "witnesses." We all want to say we were there when "that athlete" was better than everyone else.
Tiger's time as "that athlete" has come and gone. Luckily for us, Rory has been on deck this whole time.