With all his injuries, asks Ferguson, is it finally time to give up on Woods?

tiger woods
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In the 21 stroke-play events dating to his return at the 2010 Masters, Tiger Woods has not won, has finished in the top 10 only seven times and has $2.1 million in earnings.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

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Published: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | 6:45 p.m.

Four days after Tiger Woods declared himself unfit to play more than nine holes at the Players Championship, he said he expected to be at the U.S. Open next month.

“Will do all I can to get there,” he said on Twitter.

That only shows how far away he is from catching, much less passing, the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

The question used to be whether Woods was going to win a major.

Now it’s whether he’ll even play.

Only he knows how badly his left knee and left Achilles are injured, and Woods rarely has been willing to offer more than the bare minimum about his health, if that much. He withdrew last year from the Players Championship with a neck injury he said had been bothering him for a month. He said he ruptured his right Achilles in December 2008, yet never mentioned it until 16 months later.

It’s no longer his pursuit of Nicklaus that leads to speculation. It’s his health, too.

Woods skipped one tournament (Quail Hollow) because he wanted to give a “minor injury” time to heal. He withdrew from the next one (Players Championship) without even getting to the 10th hole and with a nine-hole score of 42 that ranks among his worst.

The biggest change with Woods is the perception of him.

Had this happened five years ago, the focus would have been entirely on his injury, not the score on his card. Yet there was plenty of chatter among players last week that Woods might not have been so quick to leave had he not been 6 over.

Opinions about whether he could catch Nicklaus used to be based on his form.

In an online survey for readers, Golf Digest asked if they thought he would break the record. This was after Woods won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2002, and 73 percent said “yes.” Two years later, when Woods had gone eight majors without winning and started to work with Hank Haney, the magazine asked the same question, and 71 percent said “no.”

Such is the fickle nature of fans.

But it’s different now.

This isn’t only a matter of Woods changing his swing. He hasn’t been the same since he was caught cheating on his wife, which led to divorce nine months later. There was a neck injury last year, a cortisone shot in his right ankle over Christmas, and now it’s the left knee and left Achilles from the shot he hit in the third round of the Masters.

The key indicators are shocking.

In the 21 stroke-play events dating to his return at the 2010 Masters, Woods has not won a tournament, has finished in the top 10 only seven times and has $2.1 million in earnings. In the same number of events prior to his downfall -- on Thanksgiving night in 2009 -- he had eight wins, 17 finishes in the top 10 and earned $13.4 million.

Before his troubles, 55 percent of his rounds were in the 60s. Since then, only 34 percent of his rounds have been in the 60s. His scoring average is 1.8 strokes higher, which equates to seven more shots per tournament.

Now mix in the uncertainty of his health.

Can he win five more majors to break Nicklaus’ record? Can he win 12 more tournaments to break the PGA Tour record for most wins by Sam Snead?

“I thought it was a slam dunk before Thanksgiving a year-and-a-half ago,” two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange said. “I started having serious doubts after his withdrawal last week. He’s losing valuable time right now with injuries, swing coaches, reinventing himself. You don’t have that much time in a career to break those kind of records.

“For him to come back after all of this, it’s going to be a hell of a mountain to climb.”

Making the climb even taller is the emergence of so many young players -- Graeme McDowell at 31 is the oldest of the last four major champions -- and the diminishing aura of Woods. He could get that back by winning, but right now Woods can’t even contend.

If his head still is not in the game -- maybe that’s why he’s missing all those putts -- he now has recurring leg problems.

The Achilles appears to be the biggest problem. Swing coach Sean Foley said he was surprised that Woods looked so sharp during practice rounds last week considering he had gone a month without practicing. On the final hole Woods played at Sawgrass, he hit his driver 40 yards by PGA champion Martin Kaymer. But when Woods climbed out of a bunker behind the green, he appeared to be taking baby steps.

Playing last week probably was a mistake. If Woods had skipped the Players, he would have had three more weeks to let the Achilles heal properly heading into a summer of three majors. Now he’s back where he was.

There were four weeks between the Masters and the Players. There are four weeks between the Players and the U.S. Open. It could be that Woods will be in the same shape at Congressional as he was last week at Sawgrass -- one bad swing away from that “chain reaction” in his left leg that caused him to quit after nine holes.

Former PGA champion Paul Azinger once thought Woods for sure would break Snead’s record of 82 tour wins (Woods is at 71) and probably would top Nicklaus in the majors, although he never thought it was a lock.

Now he’s not so sure about either record.

“The big unknown is the severity of the problem,” Azinger said. “The mental aspect still must be addressed -- having the ability to find someone he can talk and talk with. He’s angry at himself, angry at the world, angry at people tearing him down. But physically, for the first time, I’m starting to wonder.”


Comments

copah

Woods had all the bimbos he wanted before he was caught, and he no doubt has all he wants now, so his poor golf can't be blamed on that. Had he cared about his family he wouldn't have behaved so outrageously in the first place.
I'm of the opinion that his slide began when the PGA quit letting him mail in his own drug tests. Why would an excellent golfer in his 30s suddenly find himself beset with injury after injury, and no longer be able to perform up to his former standards? Each can have his own opinion; I certainly have mine.

sukon44dds

Tigger is washed up. He WAS the best at one time during his era or playing.
I was looking for a place on here just to ask a question but couldn't find it so thought I would just ask on here.
Since Tigger hasn't won a tournament for 1 1/2 years does he get SPECIAL treatment again or will he have to be like all other golfers and go back to Qschool?

jasonfarley

Physical and emotional wounds will heal. Tiger is still the same competitor, and he will find his stride again. He made a tremendous run in the final round the The Masters. We're seeing glimpses of the "old" Tiger. And we know that he can win the US Open with an injury.

It's a bit too early to speculate about records. He hasn't won a major in 3 years, but in the 11 majors since he has 6 top-10 and 4 top-5 finishes, despite going through a very physically and emotionally painful period. And he has another 15 years before he even begins on the Senior Tour.

I think Tiger wants to be the "old" young Tiger, but I think we'll really see something special when he eases up on his body and allows himself a less explosive swing. Maybe the "Tiger era" is over in the sense that even he can't match what he's already done. But he's put himself well within position to break those records.