EVEN those reluctant to give up on Tiger Woods have got to be close to admitting they will never see him in full flight again. Let’s face it, he has struggled badly since rushing back too soon from initial microdiscectomy surgery on his back in March 2014. Having now required a second procedure – it was carried out on Wednesday following a routine check-up – the Tiger era is surely over.
Woods, of course, disagrees, but we’d be surprised if he thought otherwise. We’re talking here, after all, about a man who refuses to accept that he can no longer perform to the level that lit up the game for so long. “This is certainly disappointing, but I’m a fighter,” said Woods, pictured, after the news of his latest surgery broke mid-afternoon here on Friday. “I’ve been told I can make a full recovery, and I have no doubt that I will.”
Three planned appearances, including the Frys.com Open here in California, between now and the end of the year have been binned. By the time he is back playing competitively – perhaps in Abu Dhabi or Dubai during the European Tour’s “Middle East Swing” – Woods will have turned 40. In golf, of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean a player is heading for the knacker’s yard. Indeed, some, including Tiger’s one-time mentor, Mark O’Meara, have enjoyed the best spells of their career around that age. Woods, though, is clearly in a bad shape physically and no-one can possibly deny that.
He definitely came back too soon from the initial surgery. He was competing three months after that and suffered a setback in just his third tournament. Despite that, he played in the US PGA Championship at Valhalla, yet clearly shouldn’t have been there. Even after taking time out for some rest and rehab, the Tiger we’ve seen this season has been a poor imitation of the one that we once watched so admiringly as he raised the golfing bar to a new level. He missed the cut in three successive major championships and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Play-Offs. He has slipped to 283rd in the world, having been 32nd at the end of last season.
“In listening to him, he’s encouraged that he’s going to be able to hopefully get this right again and be to a place where he can just go and compete and stop having to do the fits and starts,” said Mark Steinberg, his agent, in trying to offer something positive for those who still believe that Woods can kick-start his career and get back on track in a bid to match Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles. That, I’m afraid, is now a forlorn quest.