Tiger Woods might not play another competitive round of golf again.
I hope that isn’t true. His star power and success are great for the game, attracting people who wouldn’t otherwise watch a golf tournament. Even if he never matches Jack Nicklaus’ major total, he’s one of those rare athletes you can’t help but watch.
But it’s time to acknowledge reality.
More ominous than Woods’ announcement Monday that he won’t be playing this week’s Safeway Open after all was his withdrawal from the Turkish Airlines Open. That’s a tournament that doesn’t begin until next month — Nov. 3, to be exact.
Though Woods said in a statement that his surgically repaired back is fine — “my health is good and I feel strong” — he said his game is not.
“My game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be,” the 14-time major champion said, blaming a lack of practice time. “It’s not up to my standards, and I don’t think it would be up to yours.”
Except that as of just three days ago, he thought it would be. That’s when Woods committed to playing Safeway.
If his game was close enough that he felt confident in playing a PGA Tournament last week, the fact he now doesn’t think he can be ready in 3½ weeks speaks volumes. Especially given the rave reviews he got last month from Jesper Parnevik, who has played with him recently.
“He's hitting it great,” Parnevik told GolfDigest. “He's pounding it a mile and flushing everything. On the range, at least, his trajectory and ball flight are like the Tiger we knew 15 years ago.”
Woods is a perfectionist, always has been. But he is almost a year removed from his most recent back surgery — his third in 20 months, for those counting. If he’s not ready to return now, the 40-year-old might never be.