Nos­tal­gia, pity may be all fans have left for Tiger Woods.


National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Cam Cole ccole@ van­cou­ver­sun. com

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...


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