This is the beginning of good judgment and a multi-year comeback. Or Woods has waited so long and pushed so hard, that his chances of discovering the next version of himself, some satisfying Tiger 2.0, have gotten significantly worse.
There’s now one new thing we know for sure about Woods: In his own evaluation of himself, he has finally faced that he is no longer the world-beater who could play through anything, even a broken leg at the ’08 Open, and live by different rules.
Apparently, he has looked in the mirror at the balding guy who has fallen to No. 15 in the world rankings and switched from course management and distance control to career management and, maybe, life control.
“Not playing in US Open. Very disappointed. Short-term frustration for long-term gain,” Woods tweeted his original news in mid-afternoon.
“I was hopeful that I could play, but if I did, I risk further damage to my left leg,” Woods said in a statement. “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.”
The key decision for Woods is when to start playing again. Note that he said, “I hope to be ready,” not “I will be ready” for those future tournaments. Only Woods and his doctors know what’s really going on from his left knee down to his foot. After four surgeries, a major knee reconstruction, worsening Achilles’ tendon problems and calf problems among his latest issues, the question may be: What does work in that leg?
For a golfer, the “firm left side” is central to a proper swing. Your back and your left leg are as indispensable in golf as the elbow and shoulder ligaments are to a pitcher.
Just three weeks ago, Woods was wisecracking that by the time he played the Senior Tour (at 50) his condition might deteriorate enough that he might need a golf cart, but until then, he’d be good to go. For sure? Are docs telling him he won’t walk 18 holes at 50?
By skipping the U.S. Open, Woods gives himself leeway to return when he’s truly ready, not when bad PR pushes him. Once he’s back, he likely won’t back off until the summer push through the British Open in July and the PGA Championship in August are finished. Now, he has sufficient cover to miss his own AT&T event on Fourth of July weekend.
It’s time for the 35-year-old Woods to stop proving his guts when it’s not necessary; after winning the 2008 U.S. Open on one healthy leg, he’s the leader in the clubhouse in that category in this era. But sometimes the sport itself will corner him into bad-for-the-knee decisions, regardless.