In 2008, Tiger Woods won his third U.S. Open at Torrey Pines near San Diego. His third round of the tournament was the stuff of legends.
Battling a bad knee, Woods made several absurd shots, including two eagles on the back nine. He eventually won the tournament after an 18-hole playoff and a one-hole sudden death against Rocco Mediate.
It was Woods’s third career slam and 14th major championship. Nine years later, Woods is still stuck on 14 titles with number 15 nowhere in sight. And now, we reach the end of the Tiger Woods era.
Tiger Woods recently went under the knife for yet another procedure. Over the past three years, Woods has had more back surgeries (four) than top-25 finishes (three). Woods playing in a tournament used to be an event. Woods vs. the field used to be a 50/50 betting proposition.
Now it’s a news story if Woods plays at all.
Per an ESPN report:
Tiger Woods had lower right back fusion surgery Wednesday in hopes of alleviating the ongoing pain that has plagued him in recent years, effectively ending his 2017 golf season.
The 14-time major champion announced the surgery on his website Thursday.
“The surgery went well, and I’m optimistic this will relieve my back spasms and pain,” Woods, 41, said. “When healed, I look forward to getting back to a normal life, playing with my kids, competing in professional golf and living without the pain I have been battling so long.”
His agent, Mark Steinberg, described the procedure to ESPN as “something dramatically different than he’s done in the past.”
Steinberg said Woods consulted numerous specialists as back spasms continued to cause pain and discomfort.
“This is the best and only way to have a healthy, active lifestyle, be able to play with his kids, play golf and not be in pain,” Steinberg told ESPN.
That doesn’t sound like a man burning to return to the links. “Competing in professional golf” came in third on his list of priorities. That’s great for Tiger the citizen, but troubling for Tiger the golfer.
The fire that made Woods a phenom and a lock to surpass Jack Nicklaus in major championships has extinguished. Eclipsing the Golden Bear’s 18 titles is a laughable proposition at this point.
Woods’s former swing coach Hank Haney agreed:
“I don’t buy that…this is the end all be all for him, coming back and beating Nicklaus’ record. That’s never gonna happen. I mean, come on people, get real…I don’t believe Tiger is that enthralled by this whole comeback idea. [The media] believe that he’s got this burning desire to come back and play. I don’t think he does.”
It’s impossible to know what Woods is really thinking, but despite a grueling fitness regimen, his body certainly isn’t cooperating. Many predicted the extreme torque of his swing would cut his career short.
From a Golf Digest article:
Dr. Jim Suttie has a take on Tiger Woods’ back trauma, and how it could be related to his swing. But Suttie is more than a Top 50 instructor and former PGA National Teacher of the Year. The “Dr.” comes from his PhD in biomechanics — the science of body motion.
One hallmark of back problems — either current or potential — is an open body position at impact. The legs and hips have already turned through, and the right shoulder is tilted well below the left.
“That’s a back killer. Fred Couples? Open. Lee Trevino? Open,” says Suttie. “They were getting back surgeries when they weren’t winning tournaments.”
Even the most comprehensive workout routine in the world isn’t proof against the massive torque and repetitive strain caused by a violent 120-mph swing. “If anything, working out that hard to produce more speed puts more stress on his back, not less,” says Suttie. “He doesn’t need to care about distance. He’s shown he can be 20 or 30 yards back and still beat everybody. Besides, none of it matters if you can’t stay out there.”
Perhaps a radical change to Woods’s game could prolong his career, but based on his comments, the fanatical work needed for such an adjustment doesn’t seem likely.
After a spate of injuries and unfortunate tumult in his personal life, it appears the Tiger has been tamed.