Dusek: Woods shouldn't return until healthy
ORLANDO, Fla. -- After landing in Atlanta, my annual route to Augusta National Golf Club winds from Route 407 to Highway 285 and then Highway 20 East to Exit 199. I make a right onto Washington Road and go straight to the intersection at Berckmans Road.
For Tiger Woods, who this afternoon withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the road to the Masters and a fifth green jacket won't be that easy.
Woods called Palmer to say the back spasms that caused him problems at the WGC-Cadillac Championship had not subsided. Woods was also forced to withdraw on the 13th hole Sunday at the Honda Classic due to back spasms.
Unless Tiger gets healed in the coming days and adds an event to his schedule, he will drive down Magnolia Lane having played in only four events this season. After shooting a final-round 78, Tiger posted his best finished of the 2014, a tie for 25th at Doral. He hasn't contended to win anything since last September at the BMW Championship where his Sunday 71 led to a tie for 11th.
"It's too early to know about the Masters, and I will continue to be evaluated and work closely with my doctors," Woods said Tuesday.
Sorry, but it's not too early to know about the Masters.
Even if Tiger plays, it's almost unfair to think he will be able to compete at a level that will give him a chance to win his 15th career major.
Woods said in Miami that with previous injuries, the pain came after he'd made contact with the ball. He could hit any shot he wanted to play, if he was willing to feel the pain as the ball sailed down the fairway. But, he said, this back issue is different.
"There are certain moments, certain movements, you just can't do," he said. "That's one of the things I've started to learn about this type of injury. It's very different."
In other words, even a golfer who was able to win a U.S. Open with a blown knee can't grind through this one. Navy Seal training and mental toughness strategies won't work. When Tiger's back is having a spasm, he can't play tournament golf.
Tiger was unfit to play this week at Bay Hill, so it's safe to assume that after a week off he either can't practice or his practice sessions are limited.
Unfortunately for Tiger, the aspect of his game that puts the most strain on back, his long game, is also the part he needs to practice. Woods is only hitting 56.67 percent of the greens in regulation. He has hit at least 67.58 percent of the greens in regulation in each of the last three seasons.
"I don't quite heal as fast as I used to. I just don't bounce back like I used to,” said Tiger, who is now 38, at Doral. "That's just part of aging."
Tiger has access to the best doctors money can buy. He's strong and he's motivated. He’s a champion. But as disappointing as it would be to withdraw from the Masters, if Tiger's back is not completely healed by April 1, he should do exactly that. He should withdraw from every event until he's completely healthy.
Get ready U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and the PGA Championship at Valhalla.
A 15th major is worth waiting for.