Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Posted: 1:45 p.m. Updated: 5:12 p.m.
By John R. Finger
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. At the essence, not much has changed since the last time Tiger Woods turned up at the Aronimink Golf Club to talk about the upcoming AT&T National tournament. Hes still looking for a victory, still the most popular Golfer in the world and still packs them in.
But its the differences in Woods that were the most compelling when he addressed the media as the host of the event on Tuesday morning. Last year when the tournament arrived at Aronimink on loan from the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Woods was still in the midst of a great tabloid controversy which led to his marriage to break up.
Needless to say, at that stage we were probably a bit more knowledgeable about Woods personal life than we were his Golf game.
Then again, at least Woods had a Golf game a year ago. These days the Golf game is non-existent or, at the very least, hanging in a sort of cosmic limbo. The truth is, Woods doesnt know when hes going to play again and because of that his effervescence was missing on Tuesday morning. Woods seemed to be downright bummed when talking about all of the injuries and the frustration over not being able to compete and practice so much so that he took to Twitter to announce that he would donate 1 million to his foundation if the media did not ask him about his leg.
Nope, no such luck.
Still, Woods is hoping he can come back in time to play in the U.S. Open in three weeks at Congressional, but based on the debacle that went down at the Players Championship, when he walked off the course after just nine holes carding a plus-6, it doesnt seem as if he should play in the U.S. Open.
Certainly it would be much more interesting to Woods to be able to talk about Golf for a change instead of the tawdry details of his personal life and the nagging injuries that have cropped up.
Well, it is kind of about Golf, he said with a laugh. It's when can I get back out there and play again. But, yeah, it has been frustrating that I haven't been able to play and practice. Those are things I love to do. I love practicing, I love preparing, and I haven't been able to do that.
Woods says he has been wearing a boot-type cast for his ailing Achilles tendon, an injury stemming from a tweaked knee suffered during Aprils Masters tourney in Augusta. Its that injury that forced him out of the Players Championship two weeks ago and has him unable to so much as even swing a Golf club, let alone walk 18 holes in a major championship. Woods also says he has been walking with crutches and that his injured leg has atrophied and will need to be built back up before he can expect to return to his old form.
But that old form has been missing for a long, long time. He hasnt won a major since the U.S. Open of 2008 at Torrey Pines where he famously won an 18-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate despite a double stress fracture of his left tibia. This injury came on top of a torn ACL that magnified the pain.
In terms of his past injuries, a tweaked knee and a balky Achilles arent that terrible in comparison to 2008.
Ive dealt with it before. Thats not my first time. Its certainly not the first time I've had to shut it down for an extended period of time, Woods said. Coming back off the reconstruction of the ACL was by far a lot more difficult because it took forever. I didn't hit a Golf ball for six months.
Of course Woods wasnt 35 years old then, though. He also hadnt been dumped out of the top 10 in the world rankings, either, which occurred last week. In fact, Woods is out of the top 10 for the first time in 14 years and hasnt won a PGA event since September of 2009.
It doesnt appear as if the next victory is coming anytime soon.
Regardless, Woods brushed off the notion that the wins will be fewer and farther between in the future. After all, hes playing Golf and not basketball or football where his age and physicality are more vital to success. Jack Nicklaus won the Masters in 1963 when he was 23 and again in 1986 when he was 46. Yeah, Woods says the talent in tournaments is deeper than any other point of his career, but he is hardly old by Golf standards.
Considering that 41-year old Jim Furyk is the reigning PGA Player of the Year, Woods doesnt need to rush back.
Its certainly not the doomsday that some of the press members are writing about. I was certainly a lot more concerned back in '08, and the end of '07, where I finished out the year in '07 with my ACL already ruptured. Then I was dealing with the wrath of the Masters that year to clean up the cartilage because I was playing on it still, Woods said. Certainly, that period of my career I was confident about going forward, because I was finally going to have a solid knee, but also I'd never been through a period where I had to shut it down for six months, either. That was very difficult. Lot of pain, lot of pain. Anybody thats ever had an ACL reconstruction can attest to that. Its a tough period. But this one is a cake walk compared to that one.
So Woods has that going for him, which is nice.
Otherwise, Woods days consist of treatment for his injuries and visits with his medical people waiting for the OK to get back on the course. Still, whether that will leave ample preparation for the U.S. Open remains unknown. Either way, expect him to be back at Aronimink the last week of June for the AT&T National.
He might even get to play, too.
E-mail John R. Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org