The news Tuesday that Tiger Woods not only will miss The Masters but is on the mend from a surgical procedure to fix a pinched nerve in his back is both disappointing and discouraging.
The Masters is bigger than any one player but Augusta without Tiger will feel a bit empty. Since 1997 Woods has been the dominant character at the Masters, whether he’s won or not, and would have been again this year as he took another swipe at closing in on Jack Nicklaus’s major championship record.
Instead, while Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy and others capture our attention at the Masters next week, it’s hard not to think about where Tiger goes from here.
Is Woods’ body now his greatest obstacle to chasing down the Nicklaus record?
He’ll be 39 the next time he tees it up in The Masters and it will have been six years since his last major championship victory if he’s well enough to tee it up at Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open in June. The clock is ticking and Tiger knows.
Based on the statement he posted on his website, Woods opted to undergo the back procedure to improve his long-term health. It’s obvious his back wasn’t getting better, at least not quickly enough, and he decided to fix the issue so that he can move forward. If it means sacrificing next week at The Masters and perhaps not returning to competition until sometime this summer, it’s a price he’s willing to pay.
Of course, he may have had no choice.
Over the past few years, Woods has been sidelined due to knee, leg and Achilles issues. Now it’s his back. That’s the wrong kind of Grand Slam to achieve.
It’s easy right now to write Tiger off, to think this is the one that pushes him over the edge to a place where he becomes just another good golfer. But Tiger has been at his best when he’s had something to prove, a goal to reach.
He’ll use this as another source of motivation, a chance to prove to himself and to the rest of us that he can do what we doubted he could. If the procedure is successful, it should allow him to play golf with a clear mind rather than worry when the spasms might start again.
“It’s tough right now, but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future,” Woods said on his website. “There are a couple (of) records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I’ve said many times, Sam (Snead) and Jack (Nicklaus) reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine.”