At the Players Championship last Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Woods had a terrible front nine when he hit two balls into the water on the fourth hole and couldn’t gain control of his swing. He was obviously hurt and he unexpectedly withdrew from the tournament with pain in his left knee, which he’s had surgically repaired in the past.
Tiger withdrew in terrible shape, six over par. At a very brief press conference upon his departure, he said he couldn’t tell how severe his injury was.
We all know this puts a huge question mark on how long it will take Tiger to come back from mediocrity. It certainly puts a question mark on how many majors he could win this year. And the United States Open at the Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C., which is just one month from now, really looks to be out of reach for Tiger.
Since Tiger began working with new swing instructor Sean Foley after last year’s P.G.A. Championship, he hasn’t done very well, with the exception of this year’s Masters where he tied for fourth place. He hasn’t won a tournament since November of 2008. While his lack of winning may be due to his mental game (or karma), he may be struggling to get back on top due to his now aging body and the new swing he’s trying to perfect.
I know he’s only 35, but in the world of golf, when things start going wrong with the knees and Achilles tendons, everything is messed up and it seems almost impossible to get back to regular form. Especially if you are Tiger Woods, trying to get back to one of the sport’s most powerful swings in history.
According to a story published in The New York Times last week, Tiger’s injuries could be a result of the new powerful swing he’s been trying with his instructor. Bob Prichard, a sports biomechanics expert, told The Times he believes Tiger’s knee problems are a result of his incorrect spine angle and that his new swing is causing it.
“His swing is measurably worse in every way and is putting extra strain of his left knee,” Prichard said in the report. “More than ever, he is pushing his hip toward the target, outside his left foot, and the stress is going into his left knee, actually pushing the femur down onto the tibial plate.”
On Thursday, Tiger was limping almost immediately after he shanked his first tee shot. This new swing does seem to be his problem. Who knew?
Man, when it rains it pours for Tiger Woods, I guess. Up until his departure from the Players Championship, I had never once felt a feeling of sorrow for the guy. In fact, I have always disliked him for his cold, cocky ways. Now that his struggle to reclaim his God-like status on the tour has entered the realm of physical struggle, he seems to have become human again with human problems. He’s struggling with his own physical ability in a sport that doesn’t allow for successful changes very often.
Of course, the skeptical side will always carry the notion that maybe Tiger was never as good as he seemed to be when he was on top of the world. Maybe he was playing the way he was playing with the help of performance enhancing drugs or HGH. That stuff, as most aging baseball players will tell you, will keep you off the disabled list. Now that Tiger is under the microscope a bit more, he’s not able to take the junk he once did. I admit this is pretty pessimistic, but damn, he was really, really good and now he’s just an average tour golfer struggling to stay uninjured. You have to question it sometimes.
The tables have certainly turned for Tiger over the past few years. In 2006, there wasn’t even a question as to whether or not he was going to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships. He was going to be not only the best golfer of all time, but maybe the best athlete of all time. Now, Tiger is stuck at 14 majors and winning five more to beat the record seems to be almost impossible.
Now that he’s been brought back to earth with the rest of us flawed humans, I think I just may change my tune on this guy and actually go for a late career comeback…if a comeback is even possible.