Back in April, after an awkward shot from the pine needles along the 17th fairway of Augusta National,Tiger Woods’ website declared he’d merely “irritated” his left knee and left Achilles tendon.
“Doctors have again advised rest, cold-water therapy and soft tissue treatment,” a news release stated.
(FILES) Tiger Woods of the US … Getty Images - Jul 5, 11:57 am EDT
No big deal was the implication.
Big deal, it turns out.
Woods announced Tuesday he will skip this month’s British Open, a decision that is of little surprise to anyone in golf. He hasn’t played since he withdrew during the first round of the Players Championship in early May, most notably sitting out two major championships that he always used to define his year and his career.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been advised that I should not play in the British Open,” Woods said on his website. “As I stated [previously], I am only going to come back when I’m 100 percent ready.
“I do not want to risk further injury. That’s different for me, but I’m being smarter this time. I’m very disappointed and want to express my regrets to the British Open fans.”
Tiger Woods will miss two majors in one season for the second time in four years. (AP Photo)
He might as well announce he’s taking the rest of the year off because, at this point, a return would be more newsworthy than the slow drip of announcements of skipped tournaments. His stated focus on full recovery – rather than rushing back – is about the only positive news here for golf fans.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of the website release is its near complete lack of optimism. Tiger releases news like a dictator through his state-run news agency; you have no idea what’s true. All you can do is read between the lines.
Besides a closing quote claiming “I think my best years are still ahead of me” (he’s the only one), there was none of his traditional breezy claims that this is nothing major and everything will be fine with a little ice and R&R and anyone doubting Tiger’s resolve will be proven a fool.
Woods’ career is clearly in major trouble, and the fire hydrant, the Perkins waitress and Rachel Uchitel are no longer the issue.
Forget (not that Tiger will) the chase to break Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major championships. Woods is stuck on 14, with three lengthy stretches away from the game (one personal, two injuries).
He’s going to be 36 in December and the clock is ticking on the likelihood he can regain the momentum to win five more majors and accomplish what once seemed inevitable. (In 2007, I actually wondered if the 2011 PGA Championship would be the tournament he broke the record.)
In the 14 majors up to and including his dramatic 2008 U.S Open triumph overRocco Mediatethat led to surgery on his left knee, he won six, finished second four times and recorded two other top fives.
Counting the British, he’ll have chalked up zero victories in the most recent 13 majors, finishing in the top five just four times.
At this point the goal should be to regain some kind of consistent game that can make him a viable player on the PGA Tour. He’s headed toward two years without a victory of any kind. He rarely plays. When he does, he exhibits wild inconsistency – twice at the 2011 Masters he put together brilliant nine-hole runs only to be undone by bafflingly poor runs. And he keeps getting hurt.
Long ago Tiger put all his eggs in the break-Nicklaus’-record basket. It’s led to him viewing each major championship as an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. It’s led him to hurry back, full of the kind of gumption that led him to believe he could win at less than 100 percent.
He admits he even extended that to the Players Championship, the so-called fifth major.
“In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have competed at the Players, but it’s a big event, and I wanted to be there to support the tour,” Woods said. “I’ve got to learn from what I did there and do it right this time and not come back until I’m ready.”
At this point you wonder if “ready” will ever come. He might consider reevaluating his goals, starting with being a contender in any tournament again.
The knee has been surgically repaired four times that we know. Woods dramatically changed his swing recently in an effort to cut down on the wear and tear that came from his old, high torque, motion.
“I can’t swing [the old] way,” Woods acknowledged back in April. “It took a pretty good pounding on my knee doing it that way. As you know, I tore cartilage and my ACL over the years, so I don’t want to swing that way. It’s too much pain.”
With a new swing but an old injury, what Woods needs most is time.
Time to heal and then time to get his game in order while building up the strength to again put together four rounds of complete golf.
Unless Tiger finds all that time soon, playing in the PGA Championship next month seems almost pointless. A slow, solid recovery is the proper route here.
He might as well take a long, hard look at writing off 2011. It’s been a year of so few positives, even his website is getting pessimistic.