Tiger Woods has played in 257 events in his professional career and won 71 times, but at this week’s AT&T National, where he once served as official host, he admitted that he is unsure his 258th event will be or when his 72nd win will come.
Woods went on to win once more and captured the FedEx Cup that year, but the Woods of old would forever be a memory.
Now his career hinges on the health of his left knee.
“Probably in retrospect it was a borderline call whether I should have played The Players [Championship],” said Woods of his last start, which he withdrew from after just nine holes. “I made the call on that and played and wasn’t quite 100 percent. Unfortunately I hurt myself there.
“Now this time around, it’s different. I’m going at it differently. I’m setting no timetable, which is very different for me. Usually I set a timetable when I want to come back and play when I’ve had injuries before. “
Woods’ reputation to play with pain was bolstered at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, when he hobbled and grimaced to a playoff win over Rocco Mediate. That was also the last of his 14 major victories.
But after knee surgery and an eventual return to competitive play, Woods has not been his old self. Now with his knee and Achilles becoming a continual problem, questions are arising whether Woods, a physically old 35, will make a successful comeback.
”I feel like my best years are still ahead of me working with Sean (Foley) and some of the things that we’re trying to do,” Woods said. “I just need to get out there and practice and then implement it and put it all together and come out here.”
Woods would not commit either way if he will play at the Open Championship in two weeks at Royal St. George’s. If he misses the Open, it will be the second time in three years he has missed two consecutive majors.
If Woods comes back in two weeks, the storyline could play out like 2008 at Torrey Pines or like the recent Players Championship, where he was done after nine holes.
The mystery about Woods is no longer how many he will win by or when will he break Jack Nicklaus’ major record of 18, but when will he return and win again.
“I don’t know when that is going to be,” Woods said of when he will return. “That’s kind of the frustrating thing about it right now. I don’t know.”
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.