Tiger must hold fire until wounds heal
There comes a point at the climax of Clint Eastwood's Magnum Force where a bomb explodes, killing police lieutenant Neil Briggs, and the camera closes in on the craggy visage of 'Dirty' Harry Callahan.
"A man," Eastwood intones with gimlet-eyed coldness, "has got to know his limitations."
It is unlikely that Tiger Woods, still nursing his crocked left leg at home in Florida, has savoured many of Harry's chases down the Embarcadero Freeway.
Woods claims, on the advice of his four-year-old daughter Sam, to be more a fan of cartoon character Dora the Explorer. But he has, belatedly, come to understand the philosophy expounded by Hollywood's favourite maverick cop.
Shelving his stubbornness, Woods explained this week in Philadelphia that he would wait as long as necessary for his gammy knee to heal. No longer would he attempt, like some renegade in an Eastwood Western, to shoot down the competition "on one leg."
"It's time to have a different approach," he said, underscoring the sentiment for effect. "It's time."
So, he will not, in all probability, be pitching up at Sandwich for next week's British Open. He may not, having thrown out any notion of a timetable to return, play again this season.
For someone as narcissistic as Woods, the acceptance of physical constraints must be chastening. But the realisation could save his entire career.
Woods, once labelled a "slow learner" by father Earl, has flouted the wisdom of the medical establishment often enough.
That left knee of his is, essentially, shot to pieces after four operations. Aggravated again by an agile escape shot that he attempted at the Masters, it is crying out for time to heal.
Still, Woods' first impulse is to play the hero. He hobbled out of a specialist's office early in 2008, mindful that his leg was being held together by eroded cartilage and damaged ligaments, announcing that he would win the US Open.
That feat duly discharged, he again had the gall to commit to the Players' Championship in May this year when he was, by his own admission, "hurt". Reaching the turn on the first day in 42 rotten strokes, he thought better of it.
His rationale in defying America's finest orthopaedic consultants was, of course, the same one to which he turned in juggling a multitude of dalliances behind his wife's back. He believed he would get away with it.
But as he whiles away his days watching an animated child adventurer, he recognises that his body is not quite as resilient as he once supposed.
"I have played in pain before," Woods said. "I have played injured and I have played through it. I have been very successful at it. A number of years, I have been hurt more than people could possibly understand -- and I have won."
He can no longer pull that trick in the Rory McIlroy era.
Thanks to the US Open champion's remorseless front-running at Congressional -- remind you of anyone? -- the paradigm has shifted. Unless Woods takes the requisite steps to complete his convalescence, he risks being rendered a ceremonial golfer, kicked into the long grass by the young buck chasing his records.
Mercifully, he is pre-empting such an outcome, saying: "I won't come back just to show up. I'm coming back to win."
He found praise for McIlroy's astounding performance in Bethesda, despite couching it in the jargon of the jock: "It was cool to see he was able to go low."
But how he would love to take on the curly-haired one at the next US Open, perhaps regaining the psychological advantage with a little trash-talk on the first tee.
The 2012 tournament is to be held at the Olympic Club in San Francisco: the city that coils itself around the deeds of Dirty Harry. Golden Gate Heights, Washington Square Park and the Chinatown cable cars all combine to create one of cinema's most memorable backdrops. No golf courses feature, but you have the idea.
Should Woods be restored to full fitness next June, it may be an apt setting in which to intimidate McIlroy with the following, straight from Eastwood's mouth: "You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"
Only a brave man, even one of McIlroy's natural audacity, would answer in the affirmative. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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