Tiger Woods’ announcement Tuesday that nagging leg injuries would force him to miss this year’s U.S. Open was not exactly a shocker, but it certainly raised more questions than it answered.
The first query was obvious: when will the current world’s 15th-ranked golfer return to competition? Actually, the way some golf watchers on Twitter reacted to Woods’ news, a better opener might be: will Woods ever tee it up again?
“As an anylist [sic] for espn at this years US Open Tigers WD is a real disappointment, as a fan it’s a real concern,” 2008 Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger tweeted after Tiger broke the news on his own Twitter page. “Career threatening injury.”
At this point, it’s reasonable to wonder, along with Azinger and others, if Tiger is done. Sure, he’s only 35, but for an elite athlete with bad wheels and a suspect psyche after you know what and 18 months of no-win golf, that’s like twice that age to those of us who watched Woods play a game with which we will never be familiar.
The golfer himself must have concerns about his future as his chiseled body breaks down, although the most he would tell us — via his website — is that he was “extremely disappointed” to miss the Open. Forget about breaking Jack Nicklaus’ majors record; it’s now legitimate to ask if Tiger will ever lift another trophy in what used to be for him a meaningless tourney, a mere tune-up for the Masters, the Open, the British Open, or the PGA Championship.
But with a swing change he has yet to tame, the creeping yips with his putter du jour, a knee that’s been cut into four times, and who knows what’s going on with his Achilles, Woods’ dizzying descent down the world golf rankings would appear to be the least of his worries.
Tiger has been nothing if not obsessed with racking up major wins. For him to miss his first U.S. Open since 1994, his injuries must be far more serious than he let on after he withdrew from last month’s Players Championship. Indeed, his tune has changed since he told us his docs said playing golf would do no additional harm to his balky limb.
“I am extremely disappointed that I won’t be playing in the U.S. Open, but it’s time for me to listen to my doctors and focus on the future,” Woods said on his website Tuesday. “I was hopeful that I could play, but if I did, I risk further damage to my left leg. My knee and Achilles tendon are not fully healed.”
Sure, a hobbling Woods famously defeated Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open, only to reveal later that he was playing with a broken left leg and ruptured ACL. He then underwent a lengthy surgery and rehab process and returned in 2009 to capture six titles.
But that was then and this is now. Today’s Tiger Woods model is three years older, has many more miles on his frame, is minus a wife and several sponsors’ checks, and has followed agent Mark Steinberg out the IMG door into an uncertain business future.
Woods may have phoned in his regrets for just one major and said he hoped “to be ready for AT&T National, the next two majors and the rest of the year.” But would anyone be surprised if he missed the rest of the 2011 season? Might it be good for his health to do so? And, finally, how shocking would it be if Tiger decided to hang up his spikes?
Sad to say, for this fan of Tiger Woods the golfer, not very.