Tiger Woods is a million miles away from playing golf again. That's the bad news.
The worse news is, Woods left the door open to the possibility that he might not compete again. Woods was at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas as the non-playing tournament host. He isn't playing, of course, because he recently had a third procedure on the same spot in his back. He has trouble bending over right now, and his primary therapy at the moment is walking.
Playing golf or even lightly practicing golf is not in his immediate future. Woods fielded questions about his rehabilitation from the surgery and while he was in a very congenial mood, he simply wasn't able to provide answers.
How long will his rehab take, how long before he can swing a club? “I don’t know, I really don’t,” Tiger said.
There is no timetable for his return to golf or his recovery in general so any questions or speculation about that are moot. Tiger is in uncharted territory. He said he’s just taking it one day at a time, doing whatever the doctors or therapists allow him to do on a daily basis and hoping that over time, the daily work adds up to something significant.
Could this be it for him? There isn’t an answer for that one but Woods professed to be very happy about his 20 years on the PGA Tour and what he accomplished, noting that he passed Jack Nicklaus on the total victory list, though he came up short of Sam Snead, and he added that he passed Snead on the majors list years ago. He said he would be satisfied with his career if it is, in fact, over, but “I hope it’s not.”
Tiger said he still has the desire to go out and compete with the young players because he said “it’s fun.”
Don’t read too much into his career-in-the-rear-view-mirror comments, by the way. Tiger was simply answering questions on that topic and not suggesting or implying that he is finished. He was asked if he’d be surprised a year from now if he still hadn’t played in a golf tournament. Right now, he doesn’t know.
His immediate goal is to get back to playing soccer with his kids. He says he goes to their games but he’d like to be able to kick the ball around with them again and that while he’s been laid up, he has missed that.
Here’s a tip, Tiger, for when you can kick the ball with the kids again: Don’t invite Rory McIlroy.
Meanwhile, in the Van Cynical Mailbag:
Van Cynical, It definitely includes never.—Nick Johnson via Twitter
In reference to my remark that Tiger’s timetable for returning could include never, you’re right, St. Nick, it could happen. Realistically, who’s had three back surgeries (that word sounds stronger than “procedures”) and returned to play golf at the highest elite level? I can’t think of anyone.
Hey Van Helsing, If Tiger’s career is over now, is there an argument that he’s the greatest golfer ever? Or does 18-14 trump all?—Len Hochberg via Twitter
Excellent query, Leno. Using the eyeball test, I would make an argument that Tiger was the best golfer ever based on his ability and skills. Nicklaus had a poor wedge game, Tiger was a more complete player although Jack drove it better. In majors, Jack typically let the golf course beat his pursuers and he waited to catch the trophy while Tiger crushed his competition and shot or tied the scoring record in all four majors. With 18 majors, however, Jack remains the winningest player in championship history. Why can’t we leave it at -- they were both unbelievably good.
Cynical Van, Should the Australian Open (at a suitable venue) replace the PGA as the 4th major?—Lionel Mandrake via Twitter
You mean just because the great Matt Jones won it last weekend? I’m kidding, but while the Aussie Open has a long history behind it, it doesn’t get a representative field of the world’s best players. If you christened it a major instead of the PGA, maybe it would. But in December, I don’t think American players would support it.
Hey Sickly Pear, Will Tiger play the Champions Tour when he hits 50 or just hang ‘em up after the PGA Tour?—Pro Golf Now via Twitter
Check out Tiger’s press conference snippets at GolfChannel.com, Pro. We’re not sure Tiger isn’t going to hang ‘em up shortly after his third back surgery. The Champions Tour? If Tiger is still competitive, he’d keep playing the regular tour. If he’s not competitive, he’d probably move on. But your mindset changes when your skills erode. We’ve got 10 years to mull it over.
Hey Vans the Man, Even with all the bluster, will handicap subscriptions decline or will people ignore the rule on posting scores when playing alone?—Eric Houser via Twitter
Golfers will ignore the rule and at this rate, decision-wise, may soon be ignoring the USGA completely on all matters of golf. What a point-misser of a decision this was. Is there a problem in golf with players posting scores from solo round? Nope. Is there a problem with sandbagging? Yes. Those two aren’t related. The real problem is allowing players to post their own scores on a computer with no oversight. In olden days, you turned a scorecard in, signed by your playing companions, and a committee chairman posted your score for you. With computers, we have no watchdog. Banning solo rounds accomplishes nothing.
Hey Van Cynical, There are world ranking points for the 16-man field in the Bahamas? Who decides these things? Winning points awarded are half of a major? What?—AMac via Twitter
It was some kind of backroom deal, Big Mac, to ensure sponsorship. It’s absurd, unfair and it stinks. It should not count for any ranking points. You are absolutely correct.
Van Shanksalot, Olympic golf? That’s akin to Jim Mora and his “Playoffs? Playoffs?!!” Worst use of green space in Brazil. I can’t wait to not watch it.—Klaugh56 via Twitter
You’re preaching to the choirmaster here, Laughing Gas. But there’s no stopping it now, Olympic golf is going to happen no matter how irrelevant it seems. You never miss what you don’t see.
Van Smack, Now that the anchored broomhandle putter is fading into the sunset, what’s the next putting breakthrough method we’ll see?—Kevin Montminy via Twitter
I would’ve paid you to ask that question, KevMo. While we’ll see more players going crosshanded, there’s a future in Face On Putting, or sidesaddle as Sam Snead did it. I tinkered with it early this spring before knee surgery wiped out my summer and it takes no time at all to start making all your three-footers (once you’ve had a bit of how-to instruction). The longer putts are more challenging, and one answer could be carrying two putters, your sidesaddle model for inside 15 feet and your conventional model for the rest. I wrote two stories on the subject, one in Sports Illustrated and a follow-up on GOLF.com. Check ‘em out.