Four days after he limped around TPC Sawgrass and pulled out of The Players Championship with left leg injuries, Tiger Woods announced Monday evening that he is “likely” to play in next month’s U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, though he described the situation as “week-to-week” and offered no definitive timetable for a return.
Woods said it is unlikely he’ll play any competitive golf before the June 16-19 Open, leaving him with just nine holes in tournament play since the Masters — a period of 66 days — a significant layoff for a player who insists some of his recent struggles are due to the fact that he has played so infrequently.
Woods, 35, made the announcement on his Web site one month to the day before the first round of the Open. He said doctors have determined that he “irritated” injuries to his left knee and Achilles’ tendon during the first round of the Players on Thursday, but that he “suffered no new damage.”
“Aggravating my injury is very disappointing,” Woods said on the Web site. “I’ll do whatever is necessary to play in the U.S. Open, and I’m hopeful I can be there to compete.”
The announcement left plenty of room for hedging, though it seems clear Woods won’t be ready for Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament on June 2-5, traditionally his last tuneup before the Open.
“There is no definitive time frame for healing, but Woods will likely play in the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, June 16-19,” the announcement said. “It is doubtful he will compete in the Memorial Tournament while he undergoes rehabilitation and works on strengthening his leg. Playing prior to the U.S. Open will be a week-to-week decision.”
The announcement said his medical team has again “advised rest, cold-water therapy and soft tissue treatment.” Woods has had four surgeries on his left knee dating from his college days.
Even if he is able to compete, Woods will arrive at Congressional — the course that hosted his tournament, the AT&T National, from 2007 to ’09, and where he won two years ago — with significant questions about his game and his body. Woods has not won a tournament of any kind since November 2009, and thus is in the longest slump of his career. He is still in the midst of a swing change with his coach, Sean Foley, that has yielded just two top-10 finishes in seven tournaments this year.
But his withdrawal from The Players Championship caused concerns beyond his form. He said he originally suffered a grade one sprain of his medial collateral ligament and a “mild” strain of his left Achilles’ tendon while making a violent swing from shaky footing on pine straw at Augusta National’s 17th hole during the third round of the Masters on April 9.
He completed the tournament and finished tied for fourth, but spent some time in a walking boot after the fact.
Though doctors said more rest would help, Woods arrived at the Players expecting to play the full tournament. He played nine holes of practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and said ice helped subdue any swelling after those rounds. But on his first swing in competition Thursday morning, he said he felt pain in the knee, and from there his round was a disconcerting struggle in which he shot 6-over-par 42 for nine holes — walking considerably slower than his playing partners — before withdrawing at the turn.
Woods has played in every U.S. Open since 1995, when he withdrew as an amateur, and won the tournament three times. He finished tied for 19th at the 1997 Open at Congressional, his first appearance in the event as a professional.
His last victory in a major championship came at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, when he beat Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff on a broken left leg and with effectively no anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee — the same knee that is causing questions about his ability to participate this year.