Tiger Woods’ latest back problem has taken him out of the Genesis Open and Honda Classic, creating less hope for a comeback of Woodsian standards.
With each WD, the pressure to regain his high standards becomes daunting. And with each false start, the inability to fulfill obligations grows more intense.
Just consider what his latest doctor-advised decision means in the short term:
- Few options to genuinely prepare for Augusta. The one-two punch of Riviera and PGA National is arguably the best back-to-back set of tests on the PGA Tour schedule. The variety of shots required, the different grasses and chance to play in wind makes for a great way to see who is rounding into shape for Augusta. Taking those events off his schedule with only three options to add upcoming tournaments – Tampa, Bay Hill and Houston – Woods almost certainly won’t feel prepared for Augusta. The Shell Houston Open is a stretch, too, given his tendency to not play the week prior to the Masters in the best of times. None of this will break up the stiffness in his back.
- Corporate sponsors want starts and he’s just cut two off his schedule. It was gloriously ambitious of Woods to think he could play four times in five weeks, but the schedule also made good business sense given that, like most players, he is incentivized to tee up. His much-ballyhooed TaylorMade and Bridgestone endorsement deals are laden with incentives, including a minimum starts clause built into the TaylorMade contract, according to sources. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the terms publicly. That was a smart move by TaylorMade but such requirements to play only add more burden.
- His golf body can’t get better sitting at home. As Woods noted following his impressive Bahamas comeback in December, he was out of golf shape. The walking, the off-course obligations and the overall routine of playing tournament golf requires a certain kind of physical conditioning. Climbing the hills of Augusta for four days while facing five-footers on greens Stimping 14 would exhaust even a 25-year-old who has played steadily leading up to the Masters.
- Sitting out in SoCal. Yes, he’ll show up at Riviera next week for the Genesis Open to hand out a trophy and pose for photos. When he steps foot outside, he will get a sense how much his native southern California longs to see him play. Yet with Tiger’s foundation benefitting from the event and his business side taking over operations of the PGA Tour’s L.A. stop, Woods undoubtedly will feel like he could have done more.
- Woods has appeared genuinely hungry again. He’s never admitted to burnout, but the stress and misery that comes with injuries reared its head in many ways, with chipping yips, possible stage fright at times and the look of someone who no longer enjoyed the game. Lately Woods has been generous with his time in promoting the upcoming Genesis and other initiatives. He appears to be enjoying his superstar status again, fueled by masses who want to see him succeed. Judging by his smiles, Woods appeared to clear a huge hurdle with his Hero World Challenge second-round 65. But after the Dubai WD followed by missing two “hometown” events and seemingly endless drama, at some point the back and the brain can only take so much.