Tiger turns 40 (no, the world has not ended)
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is celebrating a significant birthday this year — he turned 40 on Wednesday. And from the headlines I’ve seen across the interwebs, everyone is acting like it’s a memorial service or retirement party or THE END OF THE WORLD. It’s all so dramatic.

Well, one thing we can’t disagree with is that perhaps it does mark the end of an era (but also the start of a new one!), and with three back surgeries in the last 18 months, not to mention his admission that he can’t do much physical activity other than walking, Woods’ health and golfing career does seem rather bleak.

With the picture he painted earlier this month, it has indeed sounded like a golfer who has come to terms with the fact that he may not physically be able to compete like he did in his prime — if at all. But, c’mon, until he says so, it ain’t over yet. (No, I don’t think he has a shot to come close to tying Jack Nicklaus’ all-time majors record, but I still think he’s the GOAT.) I mean, it’s not like he died, but from the columns I’ve skimmed, you’d think otherwise.

Though Woods has seemed somewhat pessimistic about his health, he was more upbeat about his competitive future in the last internet column he wrote as a 30-something-year-old.

“Where do I see myself in the next five to 10 years? Woods said via his website. “I am still playing golf at the highest level and winning tournaments and major championships.”

When Woods turned pro in 1996, the no. 1 ranked golfer in the world was 41-year-old Greg Norman. Now, I’m not saying Tiger is going to launch the most incredible comeback on the face of this earth and suddenly soar up the rankings from 400-whatever he’s ranked this week to the top, where he spent the most consecutive weeks (281) and the most total weeks (683) at that position. Truth is — at least from what I hear and what I’ve experienced in my early 30s — that it only gets harder to recover from injuries once you hit 40. It’s just a fact of aging; we don’t recover as fast.

Right now we don’t know what to expect for Woods in his 40s. It’s true what everyone is saying — that he’s getting older, but let’s not act like it’s his funeral. Sometimes we forget there’s so much to celebrate. The impact that Tiger has on the golf world is still enormous and more influential than Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler combined. Those four represent the future of golf and were all inspired by growing up worshipping Woods and hoping to reach just a fraction of his greatness. The game is in good hands.

Woods hopes that his 40th year brings him better health. So do we. So does everyone.

“The thing I’m looking forward to the most about 2016 is getting back out there again,” he wrote earlier this month. “I’ve missed it, and I would like to do it pain-free. I haven’t done that in what seems like a long time. I’ve had it in spurts the last few years and have done some pretty good things, but I’d like to have sustained health.”

We know the feeling.We wish for the same. If you lose all sense of hope, well, then, that really sucks. Let’s not act like Tiger turning 40 marks the end of his life. He’s just reached a new chapter.

Interesting enough, perhaps it was Jack Nicklaus who had the most meaningful message for Woods on this special day.

“Happy Birthday @tigerwoods!” Nicklaus wrote via a post on Twitter. “Just remember that 40 is the new 30. I had one of the greatest years of my life when I turned 40, and so I not only send you best wishes for a Happy Birthday but hope for a terrific year. You have heard me say it before that I know you have a lot of great golf left to play and success to enjoy, and I hope it all begins this year for you. Lastly, I wish you and your family a very Happy New Year.”