Here’s what Tiger Woods said about his injury earlier this week in his announcement that he would miss the British Open: “In April, Woods was diagnosed with a Grade 1 mild medial collateral ligament sprain to his left knee and a mild strain to his left Achilles tendon.”
This sent me to the Internet to look up “Grade 1 sprain.” I thought it was the least severe type of sprain. Yet here we are nearly three months after Woods suffered the injuries in the third round of the Masters, and he’s still on the sidelines. My search confirmed that Grade 1 is the mildest sprain or strain of a ligament or tendon.
Woods may be calling it a Grade 1 strain, but what we have here is a Grade 3 strain of credulity. I’m not a habitual Woods basher, but this stonewalling on giving any information about his injury simply isn’t excusable.
Even now, in July, he’s only telling us what the diagnosis was in April. What about what the doctors have said since then? Woods has said, “The doctors have advised me not to play,” but hasn’t said what the doctors have been telling him since April about the nature of his injury.
The fact that Woods played—and played well—the day after suffering the injury is an indication that seemed to be a mild injury initially. So is the fact that immediately after the Masters he traveled to Asia on a promotional tour for Nike. He didn’t play any rounds of golf, but he gave clinics, walked around a lot, and sat on long airplane flights.
Most injuries get better with time. This one seems to have gotten worse. He did not even hit a golf ball in the four weeks between the Masters and the Players Championship, where he withdrew after nine holes saying he aggravated the injury on his first tee shot.
As of last week, he hadn’t hit a golf ball in the six weeks after the Players. In his announcement this week about skipping the British Open, he did not say that he had hit a ball yet, and his agent, Mark Steinberg, did not reveal whether he had.
This is a mild strain that has become a major problem. We’re talking about a knee that has been operated on four times, including one major surgery. And an Achilles that gave him problems a couple of years ago, although he said nothing about it at the time. At age 35, with a lot of mileage on his body after starting his career so early and with a swing that puts a lot of pressure on his left knee, one has to wonder whether he will physically be the same again.
Woods certainly isn’t telling us. In late May before a promotional press conference for the AT&T National, which he hosts, Woods tweeted that he would give $1 million to the Tiger Woods Foundation if no one asked him about his knee. I suppose this might have been an attempt at humor, but even so it was one of the most absurd things an athlete has said or tweeted this year. The press had to ask about the knee, it was the most newsworthy item of discussion. (Woods did give the $1 million anyway.)
Now he won’t tell us if he’s picked up a club yet, while making pie-in-the-sky pronouncements like, “I think my best years are still ahead of me.”
In team sports, the team is responsible for releasing injury information about a player. In golf, it’s up to the player. That sometimes puts players in a funny position. If they reveal that they’ve been bothered by an injury, it can sound like an excuse for poor play. So I understand why Woods might not have been forthcoming about it when he was playing through Achilles problems the first time.
This is different, though. It’s not a case of playing through an injury, it’s a matter of not being able to play at all. And there’s no good reason for not telling us why.