Nostalgia, pity may be all fans have left for Tiger Woods.
WOODS POSTS VIDEO OF GOLF SWING, BUT NOBODY CERTAIN HE WILL BE BACK
In high school chemistry class, Mr. Zakordonski tweezed a small chunk of potassium, dropped it in a beaker of water and watched the students’ mouths drop as it popped into flame and raced around the surface, bouncing off the container’s glass walls.
This is also substantially what happened when a couple of tweets appeared on the weekend — one from usually well- connected @ SecretTourPro, the other from L.A.-based Aussie writer/ broadcaster Robert Lusetich — claiming knowledge that Tiger Woods is still unable to stand up for long and can’t sit down in a car without the seat fully reclined. Sputtering ensued. Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg put out a statement calling the tweets “ridiculous and absolutely false. It’s reprehensible that every few months someone makes something up and it’s treated like a real story.”
This didn’t exactly close the case. Some think Steinberg’s record of full disclosure, vis- à- vis Tiger, is better than, say, that of Vladimir Putin’s department of propaganda on i nvasion plans, but many believe it would be a photo finish.
The Twitter echo chamber i mmediately began bouncing the news/rumour/ denial off the walls until Tiger felt moved to post a 13- second video of himself hitting a 9- iron with a three- quarter swing against a simulator screen, accompanied by the caption “Progressing nicely,” as proof that he is not incapacitated. It only did half the job. “Camera cuts, Tiger collapses, taken off by stretcher,” jested my old National Post colleague, Chris Jones, late of Esquire and ESPN.
“Would have been better if he dropped the club and picked up a copy of today’s newspaper, like a hostage video,” wrote the Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann.
Assuming Tiger’s video demonstration was not from 2011, he is definitely walking erect and able to turn through a swing and hold the finish, which means the followup back surgery he had at the end of October, correcting a problem with his second microdiscectomy in 18 months, was probably more successful than its predecessors.
But until he is back making full swings and plenty of them, even that is speculative.
He has been gone from the PGA Tour for exactly half a year now, and has fallen to No. 444 in the world golf rankings. The Masters is six weeks away, the Players Championship another month after that, and no one expects to see him at either of those. Then comes the U.S. Open in June at Oakmont, and the Open Championship at Troon and … well, lots of golf opinionmakers think he won’t be back at all in 2016.
The last time he spoke at a tournament, in December, Woods said all he was capable of doing physically was walk, and “If that’s all it entails, then I’ve had a pretty good run.”
“If Tiger is done it wouldn’t be the worst way to go out because the narrative will be that injuries robbed him of the opportunity to catch Jack Nicklaus’s record,” Woods’ former swing coach, Hank Haney, told Golf. com at the time of his last surgery.
“I’m sure Tiger will say he is going to do everything he can to come back, and I’m sure he will try, but anyway you look at it, the odds aren’t great now of ever seeing him return to a level even close to where he once was.”
Those who never much liked Tiger will say: “Too bad, so sad. He’s done.”
But there is a whole other constituency that has come to feel nostalgia, even pity, for the greatest player of his generation. Maybe include any generation ever.
It’s because no one may ever do again what Tiger Woods did with a golf club in his hands during his “Tiger Slam” of 2000- 01 and again, after i njuries and swing changes and the death of his father, in 200607, when he won seven straight tournaments, including two majors.
Most everyone applauds what the kids are doing with the game, the happy place it’s in right now with Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
Even the emergence of the human paradox, Bubba Watson, who is loved and loathed almost equally but is winning, bless him, with a homemade swing, has added to the conversation.
And as Phil Mickelson gradually finds his game again, there is time, because Tiger no longer dominates every golf broadcast, to appreciate the enduring charm of one of golf ’s most creative shotmakers.
They are great players. But not TW great.
“There is nobody … remotely close to the level of performance Tiger was in his prime,” Mickelson said earlier this week.
“It’s difficult for me to see the game of golf returning to the level that it was at during his heyday. I think we’re decades away from anybody getting back to that level.”
Kind of sad. But then, eulogies often are.
Tiger Woods, seen during the Wyndham Championship last August, had back surgery in October, but nobody is certain the 14-time major winner will be able to return to the PGA Tour in 2016. A video of his swing recently posted online is only adding to the speculation.