Tiger’s Back Forces Him Out Of The Arnold Palmer Invitational

Tiger Woods’ balky back has forced him out of one of his pet tournaments: The Arnold Palmer Invitational. You have to believe that if there was any way he could play this one, he would. The Palmer is one of a handful of courses which account for more than half his total victories.

I think that this recent back problem is just more evidence of something I’ve been noting since the fire hydrant—injuries are going to keep Tiger from winning Majors.

In 2010, I wrote:

Tiger is 35 in human years, but he’s closer to 45 in golf years. Nicklaus says that he didn’t play golf until he was 10 and—this may be apocryphal—didn’t play his first full round until he was 13. Compare that to Tiger who has been swinging the club since he was two, shot a 48 over nine holes at age three and who won a tournament at age 8.  Tiger has eight years of golf on Nicklaus at a similar age. So perhaps in terms of wear and tear on the mind and body, Tiger is the equivalent of a 43 year old Nicklaus.

If that’s Tiger’s real golf age, and Nicklaus is the standard, Woods has one more Major left in him.

Add a couple more years to to that, and I think it is likely that Tiger is done with the Majors. To that, I’ll add a face-saving caveat: I think it is possible that he still “backs” into one. That is, he manages to play defensive golf on some future Major Sunday when all about him are losing ground. But that’s a far cry from the guy who used to lap his opponents.

Two other things are at work here that would make it difficult for Tiger even without the injuries:

First, the depth of talent on TOUR now is as deep as it has been since I started watching golf. On any given Sunday (and all that), there are twenty guys who could cash the winning check. Tiger can no longer walk over a field of (mostly) lesser talent. When Tiger first arrived, even present and future Hall-of-Famers were stunned by his game. Hello World, indeed. Now, he faces young guys who watched him play as kids. (I sympathize, for I teach with several former students. It is humbling). Those young guys were raised on his game.

Second, Tiger’s Mojo was broken in 2009 by YE Yang. To that time, no one had ever stared down Tiger and walked away unscathed. Yang was the Eastwood to Tiger’s Eli Wallach in that showdown. In spite of protestations to the contrary, reputable, published, peer-reviewed statistical studies have shown that players did indeed play worse when Tiger was “in the hunt” than they would have otherwise. No more. That ship has sailed.

For my part, I wish Tiger well. As a fellow back pain sufferer, I know how painful that is, and the effect it has on the swing. I wouldn’t wish it on my worse enemy.

Ok. Maybe on my worse enemy. And he knows who he is.

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2 thoughts on “Tiger’s Back Forces Him Out Of The Arnold Palmer Invitational”

  1. knees, achilles, back, oh my.

    We weren’t saying he was not going to make 18 prior to 2009?  I think I suggested that, pretty sure you were too. 

    It all ads up, Tiger peaked in his 20s, Jack peaked later in his career.  Jack never had a significant injury (his back did cause him issues around 30 years old, but losing weight resolved it, it didn’t keep him from playing).. meanwhile Tiger has had multiple injuries taking him out of regular events, majors, and significant portions of seasons.

    Even though Phil has won the Masters twice since Tiger’s last win, as well as 6 other players, people want to think Tiger is a sure thing come April.

    Yes, Tiger got to 14 way faster than Jack (Tiger 32, Jack 35).  But now on the age curve, he is behind Jack.  Tiger’s winless streak in majors is now the 2 majors longer than Jack’s streak from the 1980 PGA to the 1986 Masters. 

    I am not as sure as you that he is totally done with majors, we might see one or two more. As for this year-
    Augusta is out of the question.  We’ll see if he even plays.  If he manages to play and stay well through the Players and the Memorial, Pinehurst is still going to tear him up.  If he is gonna win one, it will be the British this year.  I am thinking it is more likely he will be hurt, but I wouldn’t be totally surprised by a win.

    Reply
  2. I have never really thought that Tiger would pass Jack’s 18. I always go back to the age thing. Tiger is a decade older than Jack in golf years, so year-to-year comparisons are just not useful.

    He may also be accelerating his own aging process. Anyone can see that he has had a complete change in body type since his winning days. He looks more like a competitive body builder than a golfer these days.

    Hank Haney says in The Big Miss that Tiger’s injuries were due to Navy SEAL style training exercises. Both Haney and Tiger’s regular trainer argued against the exercises, and against adding bulk and power lifting but were ignored.

    I don’t doubt Haney’s account. He clearly has/had a personality type that willingly engaged in self-destructive behaviors.

    Reply

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