x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Tiger Woods leads growing Masters injury count

Masters poorer without Woods and possibly Mickelson and Day, writes John McAuley.

Tiger Woods may be only 38, but he is an old 38 due to the intensity with which he has played, writes our columnist. Chris Trotman / Getty Images
Tiger Woods may be only 38, but he is an old 38 due to the intensity with which he has played, writes our columnist. Chris Trotman / Getty Images

The obituaries were being penned almost as news dropped that Tiger Woods, as synonymous with the Masters as Augusta’s azaleas, had been forced to withdraw from the season’s first major championship.

That back injury, which some harshly cited as merely an excuse for his poor form, was real after all. A wounded Woods required surgery, and his decision to do so a week out from an event he has not missed since his 1995 debut underlined the seriousness of his latest injury.

Remember, this was a man who defied doctors’ orders to contest the 2008 US Open; and on a fractured left leg, Woods prevailed to secure his 14th major title.

He has not taken one since.

In that time, the injury list has grown as long as one of his booming drives.

Problems with his neck, knee, Achilles tendon and elbow have reduced playing time and, as his body creaks towards its fifth decade, it appears Woods’s chances of surpassing Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 majors are rapidly diminishing, too.

Woods may have forever refuted his preoccupation with usurping Nicklaus, but it was telling he referenced the milestone in Tuesday’s statement.

Despite insisting he is “absolutely optimistic” about the future, his physical decline suggests the years are fast catching up. Woods may be 38, but he is an old 38. Time, training and a tireless tenacity have taken their toll.

As he conceded at January’s Dubai Desert Classic, Woods spent fewer pre-season hours on the practice range than in the past. It was his body, not his game, he said, that needed more attention.

That has since been open to debate, although the two are obviously linked. Woods has struggled all season, with that 41st in Dubai his best finish thus far. On this form, he was never going to get anywhere near a fifth green jacket, anyway. But, then again, Woods always delighted in defying the odds.

He presumably will return to the Masters next year having not won there in 10 years. It is a startling statistic. That, and the rise of golf’s next generation – Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth et al – illustrates the task awaiting Woods upon his return.

It is difficult to offer a long-term prognosis, but an immediate diagnosis is rather more straightforward: the Masters will undoubtedly be poorer for his absence. With Woods out, and Phil Mickelson and Day doubts, next week’s tournament could take place without three of the world’s top five.

Given the rash of injuries to the game’s best players, Adam Scott should perhaps revise his menu for Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. Cut down on the Aussie fare, and go heavy on the ibuprofen, instead.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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