The Tiger Questions
By Gary Van Sickle
A knee hasn't been this consequential since 1997, when President
Bill Clinton missed a step at Greg Norman's house and
blew out the First Quadriceps Tendon.
As U.S. Open champion
Tiger Woods dealt with his jumbled joint he tore his left anterior
cruciate ligament last July, had an arthroscopic procedure
in April, developed microfractures, limped to victory at Torrey
Pines and now will undergo season-ending surgery we are
left to deal with the impact his absence will have on the game.
2 of 15Robert Beck/SI
13. Which players will rise in
Tiger's absence? The obvious
choice would be Mickelson,
but windy British Opens usually
aren't his cup of tea.
this is your best chance to finally
win a major. Likewise, Stewart
Cink, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.
3 of 15Al Tielemans/SI
12. Does the injury mean
Tiger won't break Jack
Nicklaus's record of 18
majors won? Unless the
surgery is a disaster, Tiger will
surpass Jack's record. The
proof was at Torrey Pines,
where Tiger showed he can
beat the other guys even with a
broken leg. When he returns on
a healthy leg, his march to history will resume.
4 of 15John Biever/SI
11. Have any other golfers
come back from similar
injuries? The best-case scenario:
Ernie Els ruptured his ACL in 2005,
bounced back last year with top
fours at the British Open and
PGA, and won this year's Honda
The worst-case: Len
Mattiace lost the Masters in
a playoff in '03, then tore
both ACLs later that year.
Mattiace lost his exempt
status after '05 and has won only
$86,900 in the last 2 1/2 seasons.
5 of 15Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/WireImage.com
10. What about the Ryder Cup?
Tiger's absence could cut both ways.
U.S. captain Paul Azinger no longer
faces the dilemma of finding a partner
for Woods, whose match record is a
disappointing 10-13-2, but Azinger is losing is a horse who
could be counted on to play all five sessions.
replace the Number 1 player in the world," Azinger says.
Without Woods, the beleaguered Americans will be heavy
underdogs, but they'll also be underdogs with a rallying cry.
6 of 15Robert Beck/SI
9. Will Steve
Why? For extra
Stevie is reportedly
on salary with
7 of 15Fred Vuich/SI
8. Is Tiger out of the year-end
awards picture? Hardly.
True, he can forget about winning the Vardon Trophy
because he will not have played the minimum 60
rounds. (His 67.65 scoring average blows away the next
best current mark, Mickelson's 69.45.)
might still win the money title for the ninth time in 12
years. Having earned $5.8 million, he leads Mickelson
by $1.8 million. Phil has two more majors, a World Golf
Championship (Bridgestone Invitational) and four
FedEx Cup events to make that up, and a win and a top
three finish would do it.
Tiger looks like a lock for a 10th
player-of-the-year award with four wins including the
U.S. Open, unless somebody like Mickelson or Sergio
Garcia sweeps the British Open and the PGA, or if
Masters champ Trevor Immelman wins one of the two.
8 of 15Al Tielemans/SI
7. How will Tiger's absence affect the FedEx Cup? Tiger will
likely still be No. 1 in the FedEx standings after the Aug. 14-17 Wyndham
Championship, the final qualifying event. It's good that the Tour tweaked the
points allocation, giving more weight to the first three playoff events, because
while it's possible that Tiger could qualify for the 30-player FedEx finale, the
Tour Championship, without playing in a Cup event, it's unlikely. Under the '07
system, Woods would've ranked 13th going into the Tour Championship.
9 of 15John Biever/SI
6. Will Tiger still
be ranked No. 1
when he returns?
Yes. Phil Mickelson is the only player with
a chance to catch
Woods, and he'd have
to win four more times
in 2008 to close the
gap. Did you see Phil
at Torrey Pines? That's
10 of 15John Biever/SI
5. Should Tiger have played for
11 months and continued a heavy workout regimen with a torn ACL? You can play golf or run a marathon with a torn ACL, but considering
the additional damage (microfractures)
incurred, playing with the injury seems like
an unwise choice. Then again, Tiger won nine
times, including two majors, during that span.
11 of 15Robert Beck/SI
4. Should Tiger have played the U.S.
Open? Let's put it this way: How many Tour pros
would take a U.S. Open victory in exchange for
reconstructive knee surgery? Most of them.
How the Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers responded
when we asked them if Tiger should have played:
Yes: 81% No: 19%
12 of 15John Biever/SI
3. Is Tiger going to lose distance off the tee? No.
13 of 15Robert Beck/SI
2. When will Tiger come back? His full
recovery will require six to eight months. He'll
be able to chip and putt after three months
but probably won't make full swings until the
five- or six-month mark. Eight months after a
June surgery puts him into February. Courses
where he'd feel comfortable returning would
include Doral (CA Championship, March
12-15) and Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational,
March 26-29). Symbolically, the obvious choice would Torrey
Pines (Buick Invitational, Feb. 5-8), but that might be too early.
A safe bet is that he'll be ready for the Masters (April 9-12).
14 of 15John Biever/SI
1. Will Tiger make a full recovery?
At 32, his chances are excellent. Surgeries
for ACL injuries have a long-term success
rate of 82% to 95%, according to the
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
However, Tiger's third knee operation in 51.2
years could lead to career-shortening arthritis.
Here's how the Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers responded
when we asked them if Woods will be as good as new:
15 of 15Fred Vuich/SI
14. How will Tiger's absence affect the PGA
Tour? Short term, interest in pro golf will be down
without Tiger, and TV ratings will follow, but with
the Olympics coming in August and NFL and college
football hot on its heels, golf was already headed for
the back pages.
Long term, the Tour better pray that
Tiger makes a full recovery, because if he doesn't,
the networks may reconsider the buy-in price for the
Tour's next TV contract, which is up for renewal after
When it comes to TV, Tiger is the Tour.
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