Tiger showed young golfers a new way to approach the game, and it doomed him

At a certain point, it won’t be news anymore.

Tiger Woods had to withdraw from the Dubai Desert Classic before the second round this week, after being bothered with back spasms following an opening round 77.

Despite telling myself not to, despite doing my best to keep my guard up, I find myself disappointed. Maybe this would be the time, I thought. Maybe the Big Cat will put it together again.

Here I am, once again, disappointed. And it’s unfair.

Tiger Woods is 41 years old. He’s had multiple back surgeries. He hasn’t won a tournament in four years. He hasn’t won a major in nine.

It’s ridiculous for us to expect him to be in contention every week, to return to the greatness we saw from him years ago. He’s just not that person anymore. And on top of that — golf has changed. It’s a change he brought about, and it is dooming him.

When Woods burst onto the scene, we’d never seen anything like him before in golf. He was young, bold, ripped. He could hit the ball farther than anyone. He worked out, a freak athlete competing against normal guys in ill-fitting khakis. It was unfair.

Combined with his maniacal will to win and the psychological edge that gave him — there was no stopping him. He was unbeatable. The greatest we’d ever seen.

Now, age is catching up with him. But even more than that — the rest of golf caught up with him. He was so incredible that all the young guys coming up realized they needed to change the way they approached the game. No longer could you just go out and play a bunch and expect to be fine.

Everyone started working out. Everyone started bombing the ball deep. Golfers started eating healthier, were more focused in their preparation. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day — not only did they all worship Tiger, they emulated him, learned from him, worked like him.

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This young batch may not have a runaway superstar like Tiger, but they’re all unbelievably good … and not 41 years old and coming off multiple back surgeries. To expect Tiger to not only recapture his form but beat the guys who all went to school off him, it’s insane.

It won’t happen. Not every week, anyway. I think Tiger will still find a hot hand some weeks. He’ll get in a groove, get the putter going, and maybe be in contention on a few Sundays here or there. Maybe he’ll make a run at one final major.

But the Tiger of old … no. Too much has happened. And the young guns have all caught up. He showed them the way. It’s great for golf, but not good for Tiger’s chances to ever be the No. 1 player in the world again.