Tiger's tales take another turn, but how does the story end?
APR 01, 2014 6:00p ET
Tiger Woods has undergone a microdisectomy. The immediate side effect is a national case of doomsaying.
Monday’s back surgery means no Masters, and no Masters means Woods’ career might really be kaput. Forget about winning five more majors to pass Jack Nicklaus. Woods will be lucky to win five more tournaments.
“This is as career threatening an injury as his knee,” Paul Azinger tweeted.
Not so fast, Dr. Azinger. Woods has made a career out of making people eat tweets like that. He’ll be out at least a couple of months, but the recovery rate from Monday’s arthroscopic procedure is 90 percent.
Woods is playing it smart b taking a step back, and he'll be good as new heading into the homestretch of his glorious career. And even better, he registered for Obamacare just before Monday night’s deadline, so the surgery was covered.
That’s the positive spin coming out of Camp Tiger. The truth is, nobody knows what effect this latest health crisis will have. But if you look at Woods' career arc, especially compared with Nicklaus', you can't feel good about his future.
It’s all about majors with Woods, and he has 14. That’s the same number Nicklaus had at 38. The difference is Nicklaus was as healthy at 38 as he was at 28. An orthopedist would look at Woods’ X-rays and think he was mistakenly handed Evel Knievel’s file.
Knievel supposedly suffered 433 fractures jumping his motorcycle over cars, fountains and shark tanks. Woods hasn’t been that reckless with his body, but a lot of people think his Navy SEAL approach to training has caught up with him.
“I believe there is such a thing as over training ones body for any endeavor. I’m a victim of it myself,” tweeted Aaron Oberholser, whose Tour career has been all but wiped out by injuries.
Woods burst onto the scene 20 years ago with a swing that would register on the Richter scale. His left knee would stir the San Andreas Fault. The swing wasn’t built to last, and it started what can be called the Acts of Tiger.
Act 1 – The big splash, 1996-97
Act 2 – Swing retool No. 1 with Butch Harmon, slump and doomsaying, 1998
Act 3 – The greatest golf, 1999-2002
Act 4 – Swing retool No. 2 with Hank Haney, slump and doomsaying, 2003-04
Act 5 – The second-greatest golf, 2005-2008
Act 6 – Wounded knee, flattened fire hydrant, life slump, major doomsaying, 2008-2011.
Act 7 – The comeback from No. 58 to No. 1, 2012-13.
Now we have reached Act 8, which at least is three more than King Lear managed in his career tragedy.
“It’s tough right now, but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future,” Woods said in a statement. “There are a couple (of) records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break.”
One is Sam Snead’s 82 career wins. Woods has 79, so he could probably crawl to four more wins and claim that title. As for Nicklaus, 19 majors looks like a crawl up Mount Everest.
Nobody doubts Woods’ ability to withstand pain. He proved that in limping to the 2008 U.S. Open title on a torn ACL. It seems like an April Fools' joke, but that was 2,115 days ago Tuesday.
The Celtics were about to win the NBA title. Hillary Clinton was about to concede the Democratic presidential race to Barack Obama. A lot has happened since then; much of it bad for Woods.
The Masters will be the fifth major he’s missed. He’s had surgeries on his knee, back and elbow. It’s hard to quantify the toll all that personal trauma has had.
But just six months ago, Woods seemed to have recovered. He won five tournaments and was Player of the Year. Then his back went on the fritz, which is the last injury a golfer needs. Ask Fred Couples or just about anybody who's tried to play through back pain. And they don’t set off earthquakes when they swing a driver.
“This is frustrating,” Woods said, “but it’s something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health.”
He vows to return this summer and renew his assault on Mount Nicklaus. In the past, doomsayers should have been worried.
Now, you can’t help thinking Woods’ body is tired of all those acts.