Tiger's surgery shocks pros at Harbour Town

Thursday April 17th, 2008

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Often, the talk around Harbour Town Golf Links centers on Tiger Woods' latest victory, record or streak. On Wednesday, it focused on his left knee.

On Tuesday, Woods announced on his Web site he had had arthroscopic surgery on the knee and would need at least four weeks to recover.

"I was shocked. I couldn't believe it when I heard driving in," Brandt Snedeker said Wednesday, a day before the start of the Verizon Heritage.

Snedeker finished third at the Masters last week behind champion Trevor Immelman and Woods, the world's No. 1 player.

The operation should prevent Woods from defending his title at the Wachovia Championship in two weeks, or competing in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass a week after that.

"He only plays about 15 times a year anyway," Tim Clark said. "So it's not going to do a lot" to affect the PGA Tour.

Because Harbour Town follows the Masters, Woods has used this week to rest before getting ready for the U.S. Open. He has made only one appearance in the event, tying for 18th in 1999.

So golfers who do play the Verizon Heritage are typically left answering questions about some aspect of Woods' success or game.

Fred Funk, who's friendly with Woods, wondered why the world's best player took any time off.

"I didn't know his knee was bothering him," said Funk, who splits time the PGA and Champions tours.

"I actually got two blown cartilages and I'm playing through it," Funk said, laughing. "It's a surprise. But this is just a window of opportunity for him to get it done."

Woods hasn't played like someone with a knee problem. He has won three PGA Tour titles this season and hasn't finished out of the top five in five events this year.

"He's in such great shape that you probably wouldn't know if he had a problem," Clark said.

Woods' swing coach, Hank Haney, sat through several interviews at an outing for his International Junior Golf Academy near here in Bluffton without giving away Woods' injury.

When it comes to Woods, Haney said in describing their relationship, the coach looks not be "low maintenance but no maintenance."

Haney discussed Woods' ball-striking at the Masters, saying he was told by the player's caddie, Steve Williams, that it was the best he's ever hit the ball at Augusta National.

"He's been with him 10 years," Haney said. "So that says something."

Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, said he admired how Woods' camp kept things quiet so he could keep competing until he was ready. "He was able to play the Masters and get his procedure done," Johnson said. "He knows what he's doing."

Aaron Baddeley, a past champion at Harbour Town, didn't expect to see high-fives in the locker room over Woods' absence. "It's a bummer that he's not out here," Baddeley said. "You always want to compete against the best because when you win, it makes it that much more special."

The PGA Tour will lose some star power with Woods' on the sideline. "He makes our product better than what it is," Johnson said. "He makes us better, as far as competition goes."

It's not all bad to have Woods' out.

"It's good for us," Snedeker said, laughing, "because now that he's taking off we've got a chance to win a couple of these."

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