Injured Tiger to remain hidden indefinitely
TIGER Woods rocked the golf world Monday after abruptly cancelling his long-awaited comeback, raising fresh questions about his ability to return to the highest levels of the sport he once ruled.
Just three days after the PGA Tour issued a statement trumpeting the former world number one’s participation at the Safeway Open in California this week, Woods announced he was not ready to return from his 14-month injury layoff.
The 14-time major winner, 40, who has been out of action since undergoing surgery late last year to cure a long-standing back injury, said concerns over form – rather than fitness – were behind the decision to delay his comeback.
“After a lot of soul-searching and honest reflection, I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA Tour or compete in Turkey,” said Woods, who was also due to take part in next month’s Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya.
“My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be,” added Woods, who however said he hoped to play in December’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Woods was one of the US Ryder Cup assistant captains as the hosts won back the trophy off Europe just over a week ago at Hazeltine.
Woods said while that experience whetted his appetite to return to playing, he realised he was not ready to compete against the world’s best.
“When I announced last week I was going to Safeway, I had every intention of playing, or I wouldn’t have committed,” added Woods, whose last major victory came in 2008 and who has not won a US PGA event for three years.
“I spent a week with the US Ryder Cup Team, an honour and experience that inspired me even more to play. I practised the last several days in California, but after a lot of hours, I knew I wasn’t ready to compete against the best golfers in the world.”
Woods’ sudden withdrawal is a body blow for the Safeway Open, which had reportedly sold around 28,000 tickets since the golfer first announced he planned to make his comeback at the event.
“I would like to apologise and send my regrets to Safeway, the Turkish Airlines Open, the fans in California and Turkey, and those that had hoped to watch me compete on TV,” Woods said.
“This isn’t what I wanted to happen, but I will continue to strive to be able to play tournament golf. I’m close and I won’t stop until I get there.”
Tournament host Johnny Miller expressed sympathy for Woods’ decision, while acknowledging it would affect this week’s event.
“Obviously it’s a huge impact on our tournament,” Miller told the Golf Channel.
“Obviously I wish Tiger the best. Everybody was so excited in the golf world. It’s hard to break that news. It really is.
“It’s hard being Tiger Woods, especially if you can’t back it up with a semblance of the old Tiger Woods,” Miller added.
“Everybody expects him to come back and play like the year 2000 Tiger Woods and that’s just not going to happen. He’s got to break the ice sometime. I hope he picks the right spot.”
Woods’ long-time agent Mark Steinberg strongly hinted the player would only make his return on US soil as part of the PGA Tour.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate and Tiger doesn’t think it’s appropriate for him to have his first tournament back not be part of the PGA Tour,” Steinberg said.
“That decision has nothing to do with health or projecting where his golf game is going to be in three weeks. It’s out of respect to the PGA Tour.
“It didn’t feel right, so we decided we should just wait and look at the Hero World Challenge to be his return date.” – A SEARING first-half strike from Paul Pogba handed France a 1-0 win at rivals the Netherlands as Belgium and Portugal clocked up 6-0 victories and Christian Benteke grabbed a slice of World Cup qualifying history.
Criticised by coach Didier Deschamps for his performance in their October 7 4-1 win over Bulgaria in Paris, the world’s most expensive footballer emphatically replied with a towering display for Les Bleus in Amsterdam in the most eye-catching fixture on October 10.
The Manchester United midfielder’s powerful hit from 25 metres out after half an hour left diving Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg able to get his hands to the fizzing ball but unable to stop it.
“I didn’t speak to him [Pogba], I just said a few words to him before entering the changing rooms: ‘I have confidence in you,’” said Deschamps.
“The match confirms what he is able to do. Pogba was much better in everything he did. He showed what he can do.
“We never doubted he could do it. We mustn’t forget Paul is relatively young and he can still progress.”
France, losing finalists on home soil at Euro 2016, are equal on seven points at the top of Group A with Sweden, who beat Bulgaria 3-0 at home in Solna. The two countries will play on November 11 at the Stade de France.
Pogba, 23, was imperial in front of a central defence made up of Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny, who pushed back wave after wave of Dutch attacks.
And Pogba nearly doubled his account with a header off a Dimitri Payet corner on 66 minutes just lacking power.
“If the team has a good match, I have a good match,” said a defiant Pogba. “If it’s a bad match, I have a bad match.
“We’re not going to talk about individual performances. It’s true it’s not always nice to hear criticism, ‘bad things’ about myself. There wasn’t any answer. Today it was a good team effort.”
The French had a slight scare in the final minute but Hugo Lloris did well to keep out a Memphis Depay effort on the line.
“It’s an important win for us, even if we could have had a larger lead,” said Deschamps.
“We could have hurt them more in the first half. It’s good to have got these two victories.”
The Dutch failed to make it to the Euros and now sit third in the group, needing to improve fast if they are to make it to Russia in 2018.
“Our goalkeeper made a mistake which he never makes in training,” said coach Danny Blind.
“We played better in the second half and we should have had at least a point because we had chances at the end of the match.”
Belgium and Portugal went on goal sprees against minnows Gibraltar and the Faroe Islands.
Belgium striker Benteke set a new World Cup record for the fastest goal ever – just seven seconds – on his way to a hat-trick in Faro.
Belgium top Group H on nine points out of nine, ahead of Greece on goal difference.
The 25-year-old Crystal Palace forward picked up the ball in the first action in Faro and racing towards goal with the Gibraltar defence in disarray left goalie Deren Ibrahim with no chance.
Benteke’s quick-fire goal eclipsed the previous best of 8.3 seconds achieved by San Marino’s Davide Gualtieri in a World Cup qualifier against England in November 1993.
Portugal, bidding to catch Group B leaders Switzerland, matched their 6-0 win over Andorra on October 7.
Andre Silva scored a hat-trick for the European champions before captain Cristiano Ronaldo netted his fifth goal in four days, with Joao Cancelo and Joao Moutinho also scoring late on.
Switzerland maintained their unbeaten run, coming away 2-1 winners from Andorra with Fabian Schaer and Admir Mehmedi scoring in either half.
Tiger Woods has delayed his return once again, dragging out a 14-month injury layoff from the sport he once ruled.