“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 in a statement posted on his Web site Tuesday afternoon. “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.”
The impact of Woods’s announcement on the Open, Washington’s first major championship since Congressional hosted the same event in 1997, has more to do with buzz than substance. Tickets to the four rounds of the tournament, which begins June 16, were sold out before Woods’s announcement. But everything else around the event, including television ratings, could be affected by his absence.
“When he lacks traction, so does the sport,” said David Carter, the executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. “Despite the fact that there are so many notable golfers who will be there, any major event without him still lacks a certain zeal. Those people who are casually flipping channels don’t stop and say, ‘I wonder how Tiger’s doing?’ ”
The deeper impact could be on Woods’s pursuit of becoming inarguably the greatest golfer who ever lived. Since he was a teenager, Woods has kept Nicklaus’s record in the majors — the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA — as his primary focus. He plays a light schedule every season, aiming to be fresh and in top form for the four tournaments. In an interview in May, Woods said that despite his personal and physical problems the goal hadn’t changed.
“It’s still the same,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal. The goal is to get to, obviously, 19 and beyond. That’s the benchmark in our sport. Nobody’s done it better than Jack.”
Woods, though, has now faced sustained absences in three of the past four years — two due to injury, one a self-imposed exile to deal with his personal problems. He has fallen to 15th in the world rankings not only because of substandard play, but inactivity. Woods’s predecessors and peers believe that has an impact on his future.