It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but Tiger’s withdrawal from the Player’s dominates today’s headlines, with every major outlet publishing at least one piece on the former World Number One’s travails.
For some reason, this latest debacle has captured the journalistic imagination in a way that several of Woods’ most recent setbacks haven’t. The public nature of the humbling, perhaps, the wealth of figurative significance afforded by the image of a formerly implacable golfing force reduced to baby steps and the ignominy of enduring one fluffed shot after another, has left everyone with the sense that something important has just occurred, even if they can’t agree on what that something might be.
Michael Bamberger, writing over at GOLF.com, questions (albeit politely) the severity of the discomfort that led to the withdrawal:
“It is very hard to separate fact from fiction with Tiger Woods. Explaining his withdrawal, Woods said, “The knee acted up and then the Achilles followed after that, and then the calf started cramping up. Everything started getting tight, so it’s just a whole chain reaction.” But when he climbed a small set of steps en route to his waiting white Mercedes sedan, he took them by two.”
Outright skepticism about the injury might seem to push the boundaries of good taste, but it’s an attitude explicable, even forgivable, in the context of Woods’ history as a competitor.
Yes, he achieved arguably his finest victory playing through injury, but never before would he have jeopardised his major prospects for the sake of competing in a second-tier tournament, even if it was the Players’ Championship (actually, especially if it was the Players’ Championship). That he would cut the margin for recovery so fine as to thoroughly miscalculate his fitness seems scarcely believable. But as CBS Sports’ Steve Elling reminds us, we’re not talking about the Tiger Woods of yore:
“Even allowing for the rust from the layoff, it was an atrocious round. He flubbed three wedge shots from close range, including dumping a pitch into a bunker on the ninth, after he had executed a soaring, 290-yard 5-wood from the fairway that sailed over the green and under a tree. Even the good shots turned out badly.”
Robert Lusetich, writing for Fox Sports, dons his finest foil hat and gets a’speculating about Woods’ real reason for attempting to compete this week:
“Maybe he felt he needed to repay tour commissioner Tim Finchem for allowing him to use the Sawgrass clubhouse as the venue for last year’s televised apology for the wake of his scandal.
Or maybe he just felt he needed to get in some practice before next month’s US Open at Congressional Country Club.
Or maybe he was just trying to do the right thing and show up at the tour’s marquee event.
Whatever the motivation, it was clearly a mistake.
Woods wasn’t ready to play this tournament, in any sense.”
Regardless of where you stand on the injury [pun-tastic!], the duffed wedges, the missed fairways, or the myriad contradictions and ambiguities at the heart of the story, the last point is one I think we can all agree on.
As The Guardian’s Lawrence Donegan soberly points out, Woods’ prospects for a summer resurgence must surely have just become the stuff of complacent fantasy:
“The consultation room beckons but what of the looming US Open at Congressional, which tees off in a month’s time, and this summer’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s? There must now be serious doubts about Woods playing in either event.
Even if he does it would require a leap of faith to think he would be able to offer any kind of significant competition in a golfing landscape that has changed beyond recognition since he was engulfed in scandal 18 months ago.”
Jump on the comments thread and let us know what significance, if any, you attach to Thursday’s events.
[thanks to Shackelford for referencing several of the above articles in an earlier post]