JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The phrases had been spoken a couple of months in the past, within the aftermath of lacking a minimize, however what Tiger Woods stated then appears all of the extra applicable now.
“I am the Masters champion and 43 years outdated and that is a fairly good accomplishment,” he stated.
It is a disgrace it wasn’t acknowledged as such again then.
Certain, Woods shares among the blame for the expectations that adopted his unlikely triumph on the Masters, the place he claimed a fifth inexperienced jacket and 15th main title, finishing one in every of sports activities extra outstanding comebacks from a number of again surgical procedures, together with a spinal fusion that modified his life.
There was instantly discuss matching Sam Snead’s PGA Tour report for victories. About being a taking part in captain on the U.S. Presidents Cup staff. About returning to No. 1 on this planet. About renewing the chase of Jack Nicklaus’ main championship report.
Merely appreciating the accomplishment may need been higher.
One thing went amiss from the time Woods drove down Magnolia Lane in triumph late on April 14 to the time he hit his first tee shot at Bethpage Black for the PGA Championship on Could 16. As a result of he has not been the identical golfer since leaving the hallowed grounds of Augusta Nationwide.
Hypothesis, after all, has lined the gamut, a few of it bordering on ridiculous, questioning his work ethic and need.
However the concern that has been at the back of everybody’s thoughts from the primary spherical he performed within the Bahamas in late 2017 is outwardly hitting dwelling: there are solely so many swings left in that physique, and there have been certain to be setbacks.
And Woods is coping with one now.
A withdrawal from the Northern Belief on Friday hours earlier than he was to play his second spherical at Liberty Nationwide got here as a shock, solely as a result of Woods confirmed little indicators of misery in an opening-round 75.
However the clues of the previous weeks and months pointed to a golfer working at far lower than full well being. Woods stated as a lot, noting the “stiffness” that’s a part of his every-day life.
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And but it was there for all of us to see and surprise about, from Bethpage to Muirfield Village to Pebble Seashore to Royal Portrush and now throughout the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
Who is aware of if one thing occurred to make it worse whereas Woods was on a two-week trip to Thailand following the U.S. Open. However the issues have appeared much more pronounced since taking pictures a final-round 67 at Pebble Seashore after which exhibiting up gradual and groggy and by no means fairly in sync in Northern Eire.
Woods visibly winced on a number of tee pictures there, then could not make it by means of the pro-am right here on Wednesday, electing to be cautious. Now he is out with what he stated is a light indirect harm, not having dominated out subsequent week’s BMW Championship however leaving loads of cause to surprise why he’d even hassle.
“I’ve stated previously that years in the past he simply would have continued to play by means of all of this,” stated Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg. “If he had the identical mentality he had years and years in the past, he would not be taking part in golf in any respect proper now. He stated it the opposite day, that is the brand new regular.”
Steinberg roughly confirmed what most of us believed: Woods is having bother competing on the highest stage as a result of he is not been capable of put within the time essential to be aggressive.
That was clear on Thursday when Woods’ 75 was due extra to sloppiness than unhealthy golf. Sure, he made a double bogey, however he additionally missed some routine pictures, short-iron approaches that ought to have yielded birdie makes an attempt not bogeys, a bladed sand wedge, some poor placing.
The course was taking part in too simple for Woods to shoot that rating, even on a nasty day. So being rusty actually performed into the struggles, probably as a consequence of an absence of observe. And that is all right down to harm or stiffness or some mixture that stored him from spending the time essential to work on his recreation.
Steinberg stated he senses a stage of frustration out of Woods, who has handled this a lot within the final a number of years, thwarting full seasons in 2016 and 2017. However Woods additionally may need a greater big-picture grip on the state of affairs than those that can solely speculate on what is going on.
“He appreciates the truth that he is nonetheless out right here,” Steinberg stated. “To get again out right here allowed him to win the Tour Championship. Allowed him to win his 15th main. He is annoyed, however appreciative. He is taking what his physique provides him proper now.”
Steinberg stated subsequent week’s BMW Championship has not been dominated out, and that whether or not he performs or not, he’ll have a prolonged down interval following the Tour Championship previous to taking part in a PGA Tour occasion in Japan in late October.
Woods deserves higher than having to cope with accidents once more. No matter the way it all went down this yr, the spotlight was going to be the Masters victory, and he might — and may nonetheless — spend the remainder of his profession reveling in that win.
He acknowledged it again in Could when he missed the minimize on the PGA, discovering perspective within the “fairly good accomplishment” a month earlier on the Masters.
That feat solely seems to be larger and higher now.