Back 9: Is Tiger Done?Written by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Tiger Woods announced via his website, tigerwoods.com and Twitter that he would not be able to play in the upcoming U.S. Open to be held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
“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. “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. I hope to be ready for AT&T National, the next two majors and the rest of the year.”
For Woods to start listening to his doctors and accept the fact that his injuries need to be completely recuperated in the short term to reach his long term goal of besting Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships is somewhat monumental. He obviously tried to return to play too early at this year’s Masters and his knee and Achilles could not hold up to the stress of walking and playing. Woods is currently holding steady with 14 major victories, has not added to his collection since 2009 and now is losing another chance at a course that he is familiar with and has had some success in the past.
The problem is that Tiger is not getting any younger, he will turn 36 in December. The body endures a lot of stress during a golf swing especially a golf swing as violent as Tiger’s. He develops tremendous torque and a snapping effect on his left knee and leg during his down swing that over time has worn away the cartilage, and stretched the tendons and the ligaments in the knee. With Tiger in his mid 30′s injuries take longer to heal correctly and are more likely to cause lingering problems. It is hard for an athlete to reach peak performance if his body won’t allow it.
2011 has become another lost year for Tiger. He has not won a major tournament since the U. S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2009. He finished that event on a broken left leg and was forced to sit out the rest of the year recuperating. He also has not won any event since that pesky fire hydrant got in his way while trying to escape the wrath of his ex-wife upon her realization of his infidelities during Thanksgiving weekend 2009. What may be worse yet is that with this forced absence from the tour and competitive golf, his world ranking is taking a dive off of an extremely steep cliff.
The Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) system is based upon a two year rolling average. Tiger had a great 2008 and with the addition of the 2009 U. S. Open win he was able to maintain his lofty status in the ranking system. Now, however, with no wins in the second half of 2009 and none again in 2010 he is free falling in the rankings. Why is that important? Entry into the U.S. Open, British Open, and the PGA Championship are based on a player’s ranking in the OWGR. Tiger has fallen to No. 15 this week and if he cannot regain his championship form will continue to drop throughout the balance of the year. He has said that he will try to play again in another month. Will he be able to find the winning combination of power and touch or will his skills be diminished from the lack of tournament repetitions caused by his nagging injuries?
One thing is for sure that he does need to get properly healed both physically and mentally. I’m not sure which is more important, but my guess is that inside he knows that if he is not 100% physically he cannot win. If he cannot win he is not interested in just showing up. He is not just out on tour playing for the fans, endorsement money, and an income. He doesn’t need those things. He only has one goal in mind and that is surpassing Nicklaus for that 19th major win.
Is he done? Have we seen the best of Tiger Woods? Only time will tell. If he does not succeed we have had the privilege to watch one of the greatest talents in golfing history play the game on the greatest golf courses in the world in our living rooms. Before he even turned professional in 1996 his amateur career was unprecedented. He won three consecutive U. S. Junior Amateur Championships and followed that with three consecutive U.S. Amateur Championships. He held 6 consecutive USGA National Championship trophies. That is a record that will never be broken. The only thing remotely close to that feat in amateur golf was Bobby Jones’ “Grand Slam” in 1930.
Woods has made miraculous shots when no other player in the world would have even tried to attempt the shot. He has blitzed the field in the biggest events, winning the 1997 Masters by 12 shots, the 2000 U. S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots, and captured the “Tiger Slam” in 2000-2001, claiming all four major championship trophies in succession. Woods has 71 wins on the PGA Tour, 222 top 25′s in 271 career starts and is the all time leading money winner on tour with $94,728,667.00 He has also won around the globe in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East bringing millions of new fans to the game and vastly increasing the interest and television ratings of golf broadcasts.
Because of his tremendous desire to reach 19 major championships, his work ethic, and focus to detail, I do think that he will achieve his goal. If he can get himself healthy and mentally fit he should be able to play competitively well into his 40′s. That gives him at least 40 more chances to win a major. It’s hard to believe that Tiger won’t win another 5 titles over the next 10 years.
Because of his sordid extracurricular affairs, however, he has alienated a large portion of the world’s female population. With all of that negative energy directed his way it can’t be good for his healing capabilities and overall psyche. Karma can be a bitch. Good luck with that one Tiger.