The biggest news from Tiger Woods’ press conference at the Players Championship on Tuesday was that he didn’t even hit balls from the end of the Masters until this Monday. That’s four weeks without even a single shot on the range for what Woods describes as “minor” injuries to his left knee and Achilles that kept him out of last week’s Wells Fargo Championship. And he’s only going to play a total of 18 holes of practice for the Players, nine on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday.
It’s the latest in a series of absences from the game for Woods, beginning in 2008 when he had major surgery on the knee in question. He talked earlier this year about needing “reps” as he tries to incorporate swing changes under new teacher Sean Foley, but he’s not getting them.
Frankly, a four-week hiatus doesn’t really seem like a “minor” thing. If Woods were a baseball player, he would have been on the disabled list for a month. It also raises questions about the trip to Asia he took immediately after the Masters at the behest of Nike. He didn’t play golf, but the trip was so full of activity that it was anything but a restful week for an injured knee.
The timing of this latest setback isn’t good, either. Woods finally looked comfortable with his swing as he made a run at the Masters on Sunday and then, boom, there he is on the sidelines again. Now, unless he unexpectedly adds a tournament to his schedule, he has only the Players and Memorial before the U.S. Open.
A year ago, Woods had to withdraw from the Players during the final round because of a neck injury. Now he’s coming off his latest knee problem. Is his body breaking down at the age of 35? That’s hard to say for sure, but at the very least his body isn’t cooperating.
Woods has been going at it hard since his days in junior golf, and he’s been on the PGA Tour since he was 20. He’s certainly not a young 35. But he hasn’t worn himself down from Tour golf, since he’s never played a heavy schedule. Now his problem is that he’s not playing enough to keep himself sharp, sometimes because of injuries, once because of a scandal that you may have heard about, other times because he shows no inclination to add events to his schedule that he doesn’t normally compete in.
Regarding Woods’ future, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have no idea what’s going to happen. Neither does anyone else, really. Maybe he’ll be great again, maybe he’ll merely be good, maybe he won’t win again. Let’s just see what happens.
Regarding Woods’ present, well, it doesn’t look good at the moment.