Tiger Woods will miss the remainder of 2008 after a planned reconstructive surgery on his left knee, the golfer's management company said Wednesday, confirming rumors that Woods was significantly more injured than he let on while winning the 108th U.S. Open.
IMG released a statement saying the world No. 1 played at Torrey Pines with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a double stress fracture of the left tibia.
"Now, it is clear that the right thing to do is listen to my doctors, follow through with this surgery and focus my attention on rehabilitating my knee," Woods said.
Wednesday's news sent shock waves through the sport and beyond.
"Wow," said Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling when he heard the news that Woods had won on such a severely damaged leg. "I guess that's why he's Tiger Woods."
As far as anyone knew, Woods was merely recovering from a relatively minor operation on the knee to clean out cartilage April 15. But it was revealed Wednesday that he tore his ACL while jogging near his home in Orlando shortly after the British Open last July. He elected to see if he could avoid a major operation, and won four of his last five official starts of 2007, including the PGA Championship and the inaugural FedEx Cup.
All of those tournaments-also including the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship-will be absent the defending champion this year. So will the Target World Challenge, an unofficial event in December. Woods also will miss playing in his own official tournament, in its second year, the AT&T National, July 3-6.
And his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record 18 major championships will temporarily stall at 14. Woods, who has never missed a major as a professional, will not play the final two majors of the year, the British Open at Royal Birkdale in July and the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills in August.
But perhaps the biggest void will be on captain Paul Azinger's U.S. Ryder Cup team, which will be without its biggest point-getter and most intimidating player in September.
"I admire Tiger as a person, player and fan," Azinger said in a statement released by the PGA of America. "This should not be about Tiger and the Ryder Cup now. This is about Tiger's health and well being and his march to history."
Woods had also planned to play in next week's Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich.
The first clue that something was wrong, other than a few awkward moments when his patented celebratory fist-pump put too much weight on his left leg, was when Woods elected not to play overseas in the off-season. He came back for the 2008 season a bit lighter, and had won four of six starts worldwide when he opted to have arthroscopic surgery two days after finishing second at the Masters in April.
It was while he was trying to come back from that surgery that he suffered the double stress fracture. It knocked him out of the Memorial, but is expected to heal with time.
"For an athlete as talented and competitive as Tiger Woods, taking the rest of the season off must have been an incredibly difficult, yet necessary decision, one that we understand and support completely," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement. "The fact that he needs additional surgery only makes his performance and victory at last week's U.S. Open all the more impressive."
Tiger's absence is expected to have a massive negative impact on TV ratings and at the gate — fans would pay to watch Woods iron his shirts, as evidenced by the 25,000 who turned out to see him beat Rocco Mediate in 19 holes Monday. It may even slightly diminish victories by his fellow competitors over the coming six months.
Woods has had his knee operated on three times already, and the news that it was significantly worse than he let on calls into question his long-term goal of eclipsing the number of major championship titles won by Nicklaus. Woods is also third on the all-time victories list with 65, and he just celebrated his 500th week atop the world ranking.
"I was determined to do everything and anything in my power to play in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which is a course that is close to where I grew up and holds many special memories for me," Woods said. "Although I will miss the rest of the 2008 season, I'm thrilled with the fact that last week was such a special tournament.
"I would like to thank my fans and partners for their continual support," he continued, "and can assure everyone that I will be as dedicated to rehabilitating my knee as I am in all other aspects of my career."