Nick Bonfield responds to the 14-time Major Champion's most recent comments and asks: will we ever see Tiger Woods on tour again?
Will We Ever See Tiger Woods On Tour Again?
Arguably the greatest career in the history of professional golf could have come to a premature conclusion with Tiger Woods admitting he may never compete in a professional capacity again.
Woods has undergone a series of back surgeries in recent years and has only completed seven competitive rounds (four of which came at the Hero Challenge, an unofficial event) since August 2015. Unsurprisingly, he’s fallen to 1,142nd in the world.
At Liberty National, host of the 2017 Presidents Cup, the 14-time Major Champion was asked if he could envisage a scenario in which he’d never play professional golf again.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “That’s going to take time to figure out what my capabilities are going forward – and there’s no rush.
“I don’t know what my future holds.”
Woods said last week that he’d been hitting 60-yard shots, but he also revealed earlier this year he feared he wouldn’t be able to assume a vice-captain role as he couldn’t ride in a golf buggy owing to the pain caused by the bouncing.
“That’s all gone now, which is fantastic,” he added.
“I’m still training, I’m getting stronger. But I certainly don’t have my golf muscles trained.”
Tiger Woods swing sequences
So, how should we interpret Woods’ latest batch of comments?
We absolutely need to take them seriously. Woods has undergone four back procedures since September 2015 – more before that, too – and he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in May. Toxicology reports showed numerous prescription drugs were in his system.
The last time we saw him on the fairways was at the Dubai Desert Classic in January, where he recorded a birdie-free opening 77 and then withdrew before the start of the second round.
The American is now 41 years of age, and he’s reached the point where continued efforts to revive his career might jeopardise his long-term mobility.
Woods has spoken recently about how much he’s enjoyed playing and spending time with his children during his hiatus – something he’s unlikely to risk by continuing to put his brittle body under strain.
The truth is that professional golf has become exponentially stronger since his last victory – in his five-win 2013 season – and he hasn’t recorded a top ten since the Wyndham Championship in August 2015. He’s also suffered significant psychological scarring since then.
Power is also hugely important in today’s game, and Woods’ body simply won’t allow him to attack the ball full-throttle, as he has done his entire career. I’m not suggesting he’s egotistical, but he’s not the type of player who will be happy watching people drive the ball 30 yards past him – a product of both his past length and being at the top of the world game for so many years.
All these factors could genuinely mean he calls time on his playing career in the not-too-distant future, especially with many already suggesting he’s damaging his legacy by continuing to attempt comebacks (a nonsensical viewpoint, by the way).
There is another side to the coin, however.
Woods has been under so much scrutiny recently, so this could well be a deflection tactic – a classic case of managing and lowering expectations.
We also don’t know how wildly the 18-Major fire still burns deep within. Golf is a game where players can compete well into their late-40s (and beyond – see Tom Watson at the 2009 Open) and Woods could feasibly return at the age of 43 or 44 and still compete.
At this point in time, it all hinges on what Woods truly values. The one simple question to consider is: does Woods place more importance on family and being active in later life or trying to supplant Jack Nicklas?
Even if it’s the latter, there are yet more questions: will he be physically able?; will he be able to adapt to a different way of playing?; how will he fare against the strongest crop of golfers the world has ever seen?; and where will his mind be?, to name but a few.
I said when he came back at the start of this year that if he didn’t have an injury-free period of six months or more, that would be curtains for his career.
His recent comments have only strengthened my viewpoint that we won’t see Tiger on either the PGA or European Tour again.
Sad? Absolutely. The right thing to do? Objectively, yes.