Commentary: No surprise on Tiger's withdrawal
Tiger Woods’ announcement Tuesday that he’ll miss the British Open shouldn’t come as a surprise. One week ago, he said he hadn’t hit balls since withdrawing from The Players in May. He added that he doesn’t want to return until he’s “100 percent ready,” i.e. until he feels like he can win again.
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Woods needs to get healthy first. He obviously isn’t. He’d be hitting balls if he were. When he’s recovered from his injuries, he’ll need time to find his form after this lengthy layoff. That’s why playing the British Open seemed like a longshot after last week’s press conference at the AT&T National. Tuesday’s announcement only confirmed what many believed last week.
"I do not want to risk further injury,” Woods said in Tuesday’s statement on his website. “That's different for me, but I'm being smarter this time. I'm very disappointed and want to express my regrets to the British Open fans."
Woods’ instructor, Sean Foley, told Golfweek: “There is no such thing as taking too much time off for an injury. Tiger obviously recognizes the big picture for his career.”
Woods’ announcement raises the question of when he’ll return to golf. No one knows, not even Woods. He said last week that there is no timetable for his return. He did admit last week that he’d be back by now if he hadn’t tried to play The Players. He said that he re-injured his left knee and Achilles' tendon on the opening tee shot at TPC Sawgrass, then withdrew after shooting 6-over 42 on the front nine.
Woods said last week that he’d be surprised if he doesn’t play again this year. He’s running out of opportunities to tee it up, though.
The WGC-Bridgestone on Aug. 4-7 and the following week’s PGA Championship are the next events he’s likely targeting for a return. If he's not back by the PGA, we might not see him until November or December.
Woods’ own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, is likely the final event this year that he’d consider playing. The Chevron is scheduled for Dec. 1-4 in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He lost to Graeme McDowell in a playoff there last year.
This is the second time in four seasons that Woods has missed two majors. He did not play the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008 after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
If Woods misses the PGA, this will be the first year since 1994 that he has competed in just one major championship. It also means he’ll likely miss the FedEx Cup playoffs, which run from Aug. 23 to Sept. 25.
Woods is No. 116 in the FedEx Cup standings. The top 125 qualify for The Barclays, the first of the four playoff events.
The WGC-HSBC Champions, Australian Open and Presidents Cup, which will be held in the first three weeks of November, also are possible sites for Woods' return, though an early-November return could mean three consecutive weeks of competition. That might be too much, too soon in his comeback.
Woods has finished sixth in the past two HSBC Champions. China is an important market for his main sponsor, Nike. He went on a goodwill tour to Asia between the Masters and Players.
Woods, No. 23 in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings, likely will need a captain’s pick to compete in the international team competition. Fred Couples, the U.S. captain, said June 1 that he’ll let Woods decide if he’ll represent the U.S. in Australia.
“If he’s not ready to play, he’ll be the one to tell me,” Couples said. “He doesn’t have to prove a lot to any captain.”
Couples also said that his captain’s picks, even Woods, will join him in playing the previous week’s Australian Open, saying “If I pick two people and the other guy is there, he should be there."
Foley said that Woods’ healing will allow them to put the “final touches” on his swing changes. "We were making some positive strides, and then he got injured," he said.
His game was on the upswing before his injury. He finished 10th (WGC-Cadillac), 24th (Arnold Palmer Invitational) and fourth (Masters) in his three starts before The Players. Woods injured his knee during the third round of the Masters while hitting an awkward shot from pine straw under the Eisenhower Tree on Augusta National’s 17th hole.
Woods expressed optimism about his future, saying Tuesday, “I think my best years are still ahead of me, and I'm very confident and optimistic about the future."
Besting years like his three-major season of 2000 seems unlikely. No one knows when we’ll get to see whether Woods' prediction is correct, though.