We often think of athletes' careers in terms of acts. Some are a brief, brilliant one-act plays (Barry Sanders comes to mind). Others are long and drawn out. And when you get to the fifth or sixth act, you wonder why they didn't end the thing shortly after intermission (Michael Jordan comes to mind).
Tiger Woods has had four very distinct, almost equally brilliant parts of his career. They're perfectly divided by his swing changes, too. You don't even have to draw incongruent lines through his arc; he already did that for you.
There was the amateur act with his quick-as-lightning swing that culminated in that crazy 1997 Masters win. Then he re-did his swing and gave us everything that we could have ever asked for in a golfing icon from 1999 to 2003.
Then he re-did his swing again with Hank Haney and won six more majors -- a career for most Hall-of-Fame golfers.
That act ended after he won the 2009 BMW Championship by eight strokes (though we didn't know it at the time), and he went backstage to do a costume change and reset the scene for this, his fourth act.
It has been a successful one (he has won seven times since 2009, again, a career for most) but not successful enough for most of his critics, even his fans.
A major, this major, this British Open would validate everything -- it would mean he was objectively successful (what can we define success by if not majors?) in each of the four stages of his career.
It would validate others, too. Swing coach Sean Foley, for one, but others as well.
A few months ago, I went to the Nike Oven in Fort Worth, Texas and spoke with David Franklin, who is Nike's developer of the Method putter. He told me that he was really proud of its technology but that he wouldn't feel 100 percent about having made an elite product until Woods won a major with it.
He hasn't yet.
And surely Woods doesn't feel 100-percent complete yet, either, with this, his new life.
When you have a major surgery, switch coaches, change your swing (again), get divorced, and snag a new world-class athlete girlfriend, well, things are different after all that. Almost like hitting the reset button. Like the first three acts are just lines in a history book somewhere and the only one that matters is the one that you're in.
Woods talked about that a little bit on Tuesday at Muirfield.
"Even though I haven't won a major championship in five years, I've been there in a bunch of them where I've had chances. I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I'll get some."
It's almost as if Woods has challenged himself to break everything, build it all back up, and see if he can succeed.
Four different times.
Yes, a win at beautiful, tantalizing Muirfield would mean Woods played with history through four different swings and came out on top each time.
It would spark this, the fourth of a who-knows-how-many-act play, and send him to multiple future major championships.
He needs it, his fans want it, and Muirfield history says it could happen.
I can't wait to find out if it does.