Sunday 21 January 2018

Tiger Woods faces lost year stuck on 14 majors as chase for Nicklaus' record looks forlorn

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

James Corrigan

If Liverpool can handle any more negative round-ball news at the moment, they should accept that Tiger Woods will not be coming to Merseyside in July.

The world No 1 seems almost certain to miss the second Open Championship of his 18-year career.

That much should be obvious from his extraordinary entry posted on his website late on Monday night. The blog is not “extraordinary” because of what he says, but because of how much he says. Perhaps Woods is getting bored in his rehab from his back surgery. Why else would one of the most guarded sportsmen in history ramble on for 1600 words?

Its length makes reading between the lines - a skill which every self-respecting Tiger follower should have mastered by now - that much more difficult. Yet the fact that he called his recovery from an operation he had six weeks ago, “a very slow process” merely underlines that the prognosis offered by the website when he went under the knife at the end of March was as much deluded as it was optimistic.

That particular statement, which revealed that he would miss his first Masters as a pro, talked about Woods being out for “several weeks”. Well here we are “several weeks” later and Woods has yet to swing a sand-wedge. He cannot play ball with his children, he is “still sore”. “As for my return to golf, I really don’t know,” Woods said. “Some people heal up in three months, some people take four months, some people take longer. I just don’t know.”

 Three months, which appears to be the most positive scenario, would take him to the end of June, four months until the end of July. However, here is the thing. By “people” he does not mean “people” who put enormous pressure on their back as the try to launch a ball 300-plus yards.

Of course, Woods expressed the hope he will return this summer, but deep down he knows. He knows that Graham DeLaet, the Canadian who was a decade younger when he went through the same injury and operation, took six months to return - before then deciding he needed another six months to rest.

Woods has vowed not to rush this comeback and anyone who genuinely believes he will do so to play for the US in the Ryder Cup does not understand the man or what drives him.

Firstly, playing 36 holes a day in the cold of Scotland is the last thing a player with a bad back requires.

Secondly, he is no great fan of either Tom Watson, the US captain, or the match itself.

Woods all but said it would require him to appear in the FedEx Cup play-offs in August to have a chance of making the team, even as a wildcard. “Obviously, I'm going to have to play really well to earn points to get into the play-offs and play my way onto to the team or have to rely on a captain's pick,” Woods said.

Play well? He is down in the 205th in the FedEx rankings, with only the top 100 qualifying for the first of four play-offs. If Woods did reappear at the USPGA, then he would need a great week to make it.

So much for Watson announcing a few weeks ago that if Woods is fit, he will pick him. Woods, himself, is indicating that it should require rather more than that.

So Woods faces a lost year and, rooted to 14 majors, his chase of Jack Nicklaus’s record haul of 18 looks utterly forlorn. Liverpool will miss him, as will Gleneagles. But this is about the long-term, not the short-term for Woods.

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