Thursday 25 December 2014

We need Woods at Ryder Cup – McGinley

Karl MacGinty

Published 02/04/2014 | 02:30

Tiger's Injuries

Paul McGinley was among the first to offer Tiger Woods sincere wishes for a speedy recovery from the back surgery which has forced the World No 1 to withdraw from the US Masters.

"Tiger's good for golf, so the sooner he gets back playing, the better," said the European captain, who expects and hopes Woods will be fit enough to take his place on the US team at September's Ryder Cup.

"Of course I'd like him to play at Gleneagles," McGinley insisted last night.

"It'll be a better Ryder Cup with him there. Sure, Tiger's one of the world's greatest players and the Ryder Cup is golf's greatest event.

"Right now, I can only wish him the best of luck," added the Dubliner. "Having had eight surgeries myself, I understand what he must be going through, though the back obviously is a more complex area than the knee."

Woods requires "several weeks" of rest after undergoing microdiscectomy on Monday in Utah and is expected to return "sometime this summer."

Clearly, June's US Open at Pinehurst will be Tiger's initial target, though the British Open at Hoylake, where, in 2006, he completed one of the most strategic and stress-free Major Championship victories of his career, seems a more realistic target.

Barring a miraculous first Major Championship victory in six years, Woods is likely to require one of Tom Watson's three wild cards at Gleneagles.

SKIPPER

Should he regain full fitness and top form by late summer, Woods is unlikely to be disappointed on that count, judging by the US skipper's recent words: "I want Tiger to be on the team in the worst way.

"I just hope he's healthy enough to be able to play," added Watson, expressing a concern which was widespread throughout the game in recent months as the 38-year-old has struggled to shake off a lower-back problem which has nagged him since last August.

Tiger has long been seen as a candidate for lower back trouble because of the immense power and torque in his golf swing.

At the height of his powers in 2002, an American chiropractor named David Seaman predicted that if he "doesn't develop serious back pain by the time he's 30, it will be a miracle."

In the interim, Woods blew out his left knee, requiring reconstructive surgery on the joint after his pain-wracked victory at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, the most recent of his 14 Major titles.

Though he won five times on the US PGA Tour in 2012 and 2013, serious doubts about Tiger's long-term career prospects were stirred as severe spasms in his lower back forced him to his knees during the final round of last August's Barclays Championship in New Jersey.

Woods admitted in the New Year that he had hit no golf balls over the winter as he concentrated on getting back into shape. After a rocky start, in which he failed to progress beyond 54 holes at The Farmers Insurance Open after a third-round 79 and then slumped to a share of 41st in Dubai, concern about Tiger's form was replaced by fear for his long-term future when he withdrew in agony after 13 holes on Sunday at Honda.

When he followed a problem-free 66 on Saturday at Doral with a pain-wracked 78 the next day, his worst final round as a professional, it was clear that Woods was in serious difficulty, especially when he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Yet in bowing to the harsh reality of his medical situation and out of the Masters for the first time since his Augusta debut as an amateur in 1995, Tiger has revealed the true extent of his agony and his injury.

The procedure he underwent on Monday is described in medical literature as "a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a portion of a herniated disc is removed by way of a surgical instrument or laser.

"It is performed on an outpatient basis with no overnight stay or one overnight in hospital and, post-operatively, patients may return to a normal level of daily activity quickly."

Yet there never has been anything remotely normal about the daily activity of Tiger Woods.

Tiger probably will make it back in time for the Ryder Cup but, as long feared, chronic back problems may prove to be the greatest obstacle in his lifelong pursuit of the record 18 Major titles won by Jack Nicklaus.

Irish Independent

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