Tiger Woods: The Aftermath

So the whole world is falling all over themselves to try to find a new angle on an ACL tear. Some have portrayed Tiger as Superman, playing up the angle about overcoming the pain to play in the US Open. Others, who thought Tiger was exaggerating the injury, have now had to eat crow and acknowledge he was hurt.

Woods apparently kept his cards close to his chest, not even letting his caddie know the extent of his injuries:

“I kind of had a premonition that might be it,” Williams told Wednesday night. “I had an inclination that a certain surgery might be required. And then Tiger told me, ‘We’re done for the year.'”

Hank Haney says after surgery Woods will be “better than ever.” Last I knew Haney was a swing doctor, not an MD.

“He’s going to better than ever,” said swing coach Hank Haney of his star pupil. “Think about it. His knee hasn’t been right for a long, long time and he’s won, what, 10 of his last 13 tournaments, with two seconds and a fifth?

The question in my mind is why Woods played in the U.S. Open at all? According to the news release, Woods ruptured his ACL running last year. Now an orthopaedics specialist on the Fan 590 today said he had never heard of anyone having such an injury from running. Perhaps Woods had actually hurt it previously and didn’t realize it until afterwards?

Whatever the case, the doctor on the radio said there was an 85% chance of full recovery. But that doesn’t mean Woods would be the same player or be able to play the game in the way he is used to. So that’s the question — what kind of Tiger reappears in a year’s time at the U.S. Open? A player who is 75% of his former self, which would still make him better than pretty much anyone on tour?

Apparently the stress fracture was the real problem facing Woods at the U.S. Open and that just takes time to heal. The other elements — the ACL tear, the continued lack of cartilage in his knee — can all be cleared up. I assume he’ll see the best — and the best will come to him. However, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t face problems — and those problems could slow him substantially, as Dr. Vijay Vad points out in a Golf for Women blog:

“The long-term consequence of a delayed repair is that he’s at a very high risk of developing arthritis in the knee in the next five to seven years,” said Vijay Vad, MD, a sports medicine expert for and my co-author on the book Golf Rx. “The consequences are twofold: One, we don’t know how he’s going to perform if and when the arthritis develops; and two, we don’t know what kind of impact it’s going to have on the longevity of his career.”

My take? I wouldn’t be surprised if Woods takes it back to Ben Hogan territory and gives up his PGA Tour card. Rather than playing the number of events he needs to keep the card, he plays the majors and a handful of other events (one sponsored by Buick, surely). Maybe 10 events a year? Even as a shell of his former self, he’d still win a couple.

Steve Elling points out just how significant the injury is to golf:

Understand that golf isn’t just a sport televised on TV, it’s an outright industry that employs millions and generates billions in nearly every hamlet and burgh in the country. Growth has been stagnant in the States for decades, and having a permanently hobbled show pony would only have driven more related industries to the brink of ruin. It’s not even a slight cultural stretch — Woods is to golf what Hendrix was to the electric guitar. It existed before Jimi, but all the rules were changed thereafter.

And if you wonder whether Tiger will still be No. 1 in a year? Golf Digest investigates.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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  • Tiger at 50% of his current self would still be the #1 golfer in the world, if your perspective is the World Ranking points. With 50% of his current points he is still slightly above Phil.

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