Five-time British Open champion Tom Watson fears for the future of Tiger Woods if he is forced into having knee replacement surgery.
Woods skipped his second successive major this week and has not played competitively since limping out of the Players Championship on May 12. No date has been set for the 35-year-old's comeback yet and there has been plenty of speculation about his future in the game.
Watson, now 61, overcame a hip replacement to produce one of the most amazing feats ever in sport at Turnberry two years ago, having a putt to win a record-equaling sixth Claret Jug before losing a playoff to Stewart Cink.
"With a hip, you put a new one in and here we go," he said. "The knee takes a lot more stress -- it's out there on its lonesome and rotates. Whether he is going to have a total knee replacement, who knows, but that may be a more difficult thing to come back from if he does.
"The most important thing is for him to get well so he can put the force on it that he has to for his swing,” Watson explained. "He loves to work out, but can it be put back in shape is the question -- that's the concern -- and whether it's going to prevent him from dominating the game again, who knows?
"Nobody has ever dominated the game like he has."
Woods won the last of his 14 majors more than three years ago -- he went in for knee reconstruction surgery immediately after that and was out for eight months -- and has not won any titles since his sex scandal hit the headlines late in 2009. The last American winner of a major was Phil Mickelson at the 2010 Masters.
"A vacuum has been left by Woods getting hurt and having personal problems," said Watson.