Tiger’s back?

Tiger at AugustaTiger Woods has pulled out of this year’s Masters, an event he has won four times and the most coveted and prestigious championship in all of professional golf.

At 38 years old, we don’t know how long it will take Woods, who was once unanimously (and perhaps prematurely?) considered the greatest golfer of all time, to return to the game or to the form he once knew, or at this point, if he ever will again.

After all, he hasn’t yet… and his clock is ticking.

His passing of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors (Tiger has won 14) was once considered a foregone conclusion.  Not so much anymore.

Dan LeBatard led his Wednesday broadcast of Highly Questionable by asking whether we were all ready to “write Tiger off.”  I would like to propose a far more intriguing question.

Tiger smirkHow will Tiger be remembered?

Aside from perhaps Kobe Bryant, who managed to regain his superstar status after an ill-advised soiree in Colorado, and OJ Simpson, who is now in prison for his stupidity, I’m not sure we have seen an athlete fall so quickly from likeable to despised, as we have with Tiger Woods.  Despite his actions that deservedly caused such a seismic shift in public opinion, Tiger remains the biggest draw in the sport.

Earlier this week, the golfer we love to hate yet can’t turn our eyes from had surgery on a pinched nerve.  The surgery was said to be a success.  Estimates put him back on tour some time during the summer.  But anyone who’s ever had back problems knows the lingering effects they can cause.  Larry Bird’s back problems essentially ended his career.  Two-time MVP Steve Nash’s back problems kept him from playing all season.  Basically, bad backs are nothing to sneeze at.

So where does that leave us?

Tiger still has to win five majors to attain his goal and convince the lot of us he can do what he once set out to do: become the all-time winningest golfer in the events that matter most.  Tiger had a relatively successful 2013, winning five of the 16 tournaments he entered and bringing in over $8,500,000 in tour earnings but he hasn’t won a major since 2008.  This is coming from a guy who once won four in a row.

There is no need to rehash what happened in Tiger’s personal life and how it affected not only his overall game but how he is publicly perceived.

What matters most is that he commits himself to rehabbing his injuries and refocusing on the Grand Slam record he so covets.  It’s hard to imagine what we considered for so long the Michael Jordan of golf giving up on that goal.  Yet at this point, it’s also becoming harder to see him achieving it.

Tiger presserSo what if he never wins another, or wins one or two but still falls short of Jack’s record?  How will we remember him?  Will we rethink our opinions of him as the greatest golfer ever?  Have we already?  Can we separate his personal and professional lives enough to make a fair judgment?

When it comes to Tiger, I can’t help but think we’ve been short-changed.  An injury-plagued end to Tiger Woods’ career would be like a masterpiece that was never fully finished or a meal we know was delicious yet somehow left a bad taste in our mouths.

The task that lay before him is not impossible.  Nicklaus won exactly four majors after turning 38 years old.  Tiger Woods will need one more than that to surpass him.

At this point, he’ll have to do so not only with a bad back but in a role he’s never been in before: the underdog.

35 thoughts on “Tiger’s back?

  1. Having had the same surgery almost 12 years ago, I can do to two things: One, is verify the pain that does what they say it does..cause incredible discomfort. It is by far the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. A herniated disc pressing against a nerve is not a lot of fun and can be severely debilitating. Now that I’ve got that memory out of me, let me go to point two. It took me about 5-6 months to get back to where my Dr. would let me swing a club and feel comfortable. I can say that I’ve returned to form and have learned how to play smarter. My index is, and has been hovering at 7.3 for quite a while. While not what I used to be, (4.6), I’m still better than most folk I play with. So, be optimistic, he’ll be back!!!

  2. The thing I like to do when comparing these greats is not just look at wins or majors exclusively. That said I think he is squarely number 2…for a few reasons.

    Equipment is the one thing that stands out the most to me over their careers. Jack is at a serious disadvantage compared to todays golfers with regards to equipment. The equipment the players play with today are almost unfair honestly compared to hickory shafted clubs of yesteryear. I think a 32 year old Jack beats a 32 year old Tiger either both playing old clubs or new. Yes everybody in each era used the same type of equipment. I think Jack dominates more with better equipment.

    Fitness and nutrition is another thing todays golfer has over the legends of the past. Education on such matters just wasn’t around to the extent it is today. Imagine if Jack was ahead of the curve and took pristine care of himself rather than being labeled ” Fatso ” . Long story short, Jack would be the dominant player on tour today and Tiger would be reduced to Phil status (which isn’t bad). BTW, Jack was runner-up 19 times in majors on top of his 18 wins…it really isn’t even close between the two despite the media trying to make it so.

  3. Mony…

    While I’m sure Tiger’s doctors are better than any of us can afford (they can rebuild him), you confirmed my point that bad backs… suck.

    I’m surprised some are saying he’ll be back in a few weeks.

    And while your handicap is certainly commendable and a full fifteen strokes better than mine (and probably better than E’s), we’re still talking about the cream of the crop, the elite.

    Is this something he can not only come back from but return to dominate as we once knew him to?

  4. Fair comparisons, Desus.

    But keep in mind, courses have also been “Tiger-proofed” over the years to make them more difficult.

    So while equipment and fitness have advanced over the years, so have the difficulty of courses.

    Speaking of golf, I think I’ll go hit a few. Meet ya’ at the first tee box.

  5. There is no question a great and winning Tiger is great for golf. I like him more today than say 12-15 years ago…really through no fault of his own. The media hype was/is absurb…same goes for Lebron or even Tebow (gasp). Being a Gator fan I know I am not supposed to speak ill of the great one but his hype left a lot to be desired. I can easily see why people were turned off to him.

    If Tiger is battling Phil then he just loses out on my pulling for him. If he is in contention and going toe to toe with say Zach Johnson then yeah I pull for him. I don’t think he wins 4 much less 5 majors at this point. He may be lucky to win 1, but he has changed golf forever much like Jack.

  6. Woods has spent fart too much time in the gym , rather than on his game over the past eighteen months , beyond his nocturnal habits of ” laying more pipe” than a plumber .

    I don’t know that he will remain motivated enough to surpass Jack’s eighteen Majors, but he will surpass Sam Snead’s figure of eighty-two tournament wins , which is the all time record for the PGA Tour . Four more wins and equals that feat and one more win, beyond that and he has the record to himself . Besides, when you have won over $105 million in official prize money , is there really a need to worry about anything else , along with an estimated wealth of over $500 million ?

    tophatal …………..

  7. I question whether Jack Nicklaus is number 1 let alone Tiger Woods but just as Jack and Tiger play in different eras so too did Bobby Jones.
    I speculated back in 2008 if by some quirk of fate Tiger would never win another major and it’s held true for going on six years… Those six years (from 32 to 38 years of age) should have been the very best and most productive of Tiger’s career… Along with his debilitating back problem (just as Gmony, I know what it’s like to have a ruptured lower back disk and remember well what that entails) is the thrill gone now for Tiger? Is the desire still there?

  8. Selig can’t step down fast enough from his position as commissioner . He’s off another rant and jibe at the Rays and also new St Pete Mayor Keith Kriserman .

    Scottie Wilbekin , at this juncture , a top-ten consensus pick in this year’s NBA Draft based on his play this season for the Gators ?

    With DeSean Jackson going to the Redskins , does that make them a slight favorite within the NFC East this upcoming season , after the Eagles allow him to leave after a career year , breaking several Eagles’ franchise records along the way ?

    :)

    If we build it will they come ?

    tophatal ……..

  9. Woods is huge, Al.

    I’m actually surprised he got that big. Who was training him and were those workouts specific to his game? And why haven’t we heard more about links to HGH? His body is starting to break down like someone who used over his entire career, no?

    Just like you, I’ve been ready for Selig to leave for quite some time.

    I’m not too sure I agree with you on Wilbekin. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a team take him in the Draft but I’m not so sure he’s a lottery pick. I also hear Jabari Parker might be staying in school. Do you believe that?

  10. Dwin…

    I’m wondering if Tiger was even the most dominant ever.

    Sure he had that early run but was that the most dominant run a golfer’s ever seen?

    I think that would require a little bit of research.

    I’ll have my staff get right on that, he he.

  11. Wilbekin’s been money, Al, but theirs really is a team effort. Prather’s led the team in scoring, Young is a beast in the post, Yeguete does things that don’t show up in the boxscore, Casey Hill’s been solid off the bench and given Wilbekin some key minutes of playing two guard so he doesn’t have to handle the ball all the time and Finney-Smith has been insane, leading the team in rebounding as a non-starter.

    This team is solid from top to bottom..

    Two more wins, my brother.

  12. Chris

    Wilbekin is likely to go in the first round dependent up a team’s needs , but the kid can play and he’s great motivator and instigator .

    The reason why I say that , look at the idiocy of the Sixers and their front office and then take into account what we have seen from the Cavaliers under Chris Grant before he was fired ? Bear mind, Grant became the general manager in the aftermath LBJ idiocy .

    See my baseball piece and let me know what you think ?

    If we build it they will come (MLB)

    The grass is not always greener on the other side

  13. I might be willing to place a wager on that, Al.

    I don’t think he goes in the first round.

    Sure, there are plenty of GMs out there that don’t know what they’re doing but point guards are key to an NBA team’s success (except for of course, Miami).

    There are some stout NBA point guards in the league that I’m not quite sure Scottie is ready to handle.

    Either way, whether he’s drafted early or not, I’ll be pulling for him. He’s quickly becoming one of every Florida alum’s favorite Gator.

  14. It’s gonna be a while, CDR. He just had the surgery this week and I’ve heard anywhere from three weeks up until summertime for full recovery.

    I’m guessing it’ll be the latter. This is probably something he doesn’t want to rush back from.

  15. In the right environment he (Wilbekin) can prosper ! No one , but the Spurs took a second glance at Tony Parker as a point guard , thinking that the Frenchman couldn’t play. Now look at what he’s been able to achieve in the NBA ?

    Thought that the Jameis Winston story was dead and buried ? I said to you , that there were questions concerning the conduct of the Tallahassee Police Dept (TPD) all along . Now the chickens could very well be coming home to roost . (See link provided ). This whole s story stank to high heavens to begin with , especially the conduct of the school in initially not taking the allegations seriously or the AD Vanessa Fuchs conducting any type of investigation , internally , simply relying on the word of law enforcement .

    Still think it’s all about the victim seeking a big payday ?

    tophatal …………….

  16. Chris

    Which is worse ? Deion Sanders opening his mouth or him placing his great big size twelves in it ? By any chance did you catch his statement concerning Johnny Manziel ? In his heyday Sanders was more “ghetto fabulous ” than anyone . He’s now recanting on his statement concerning the player . What is it with Sanders ? While both Dez Bryant was in college he sought to lure the player to sign with his management and budding sports’ agency .

    tophatal ………

  17. That’s fair, Al.

    Again, I don’t think that Scottie won’t succeed at the next level. He very well may. I just don’t think a team will grab him in the first round. I could be wrong.

    Sanders’ comments reminded me of when Michael Irvin said of Tony Romo that he had a little brother in him and that’s why he played the way he did.

  18. Boomer Esiason is a repugnant @sshole and his comments about the Mets’ Daniel Murphy shows him to be intolerant . So the player took time off to be at the birth of his child and given that Esiason has a child of his own that suffers from autism, what the hell was for the former NFL player thinking with regard to his remarks ?

  19. No one person has ever moved the interest needle in their sport than Tiger. Masters TV ratings just went down three points before the week even begins. A golden era of golf is on its way out. I know a lot about herniated discs but more about Peyton Manning’s cervical area than Tiger’s back area. I hear backs are tricky. I know discs are. But even if Woods’ docs put him right he’s worked that body so hard in his time the time has come to admit he’s not catching Jack. And that’s a shame.

  20. Al…

    Have you heard whether the Bucs would show any interest in Chris Johnson? Don’t you think several teams would if they can get him cheap?

    I heard that about Boomer. That show of his is pretty average. Sometimes, I think people in that position say things just to move the meter. Looks like it backfired on old Boom.

    You’re right about Ollie. Fantastic job in that game figuring out the Gators.

  21. Not even the new faces of golf combined, Burnsy, can bring viewers in the way Tiger did.

    If I were the PGA Tour, I’d be paying Tiger’s full medical expenses to ensure a quick and healthy recovery, he he.

  22. So having won the national title the political pundits (Fox News) are now bashing Shabazz Napier for an interview he gave last month , during which believes he states , it is time the NCAA ought review their procedures , as to whether or not the student athlete ought to be paid ? Napier was succinct in his comments and was able to make a great deal of sense with regard to the issue . Whereas, that dope @sshole of an NCAA President Mark Emmert has three times in the past eighteen months , seen fit to change his own stance on the issue where he is now dead set against paying any type of monetary stipend . I am beginning to wonder which of the conference commissioners or AD’s took Emmert behind the woodshed and threatened his dumb @ss .

  23. Al…

    If Johnson’s to be so coveted, why haven’t we heard of any team seriously interested yet? And what’s a potentially washed-up, once decent running back even get on the market these days? Where have all the good backs gone?

    The Gators ran into a buzz saw against UConn, Al. For that matter, so did Kentucky. Who the hell thought the University of Connecticut was going to be the last team standing in this year’s tournament?

    And with all the talk of change in the NCAA, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mark Emmert consider leaving his post. I know he’s only been there a short time but the shit is about to hit the fan and it’s going to have his name all over it.

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