Tiger underwent his fourth back surgery since 2014 Thursday and doom and gloom instantaneously spread across the golfing world.
Tiger hasn’t teed up since aggravating his back in the Middle East in January and while this latest surgery certainly doesn’t improve his chances of returning to a regular schedule on the PGA Tour, it seems as though this was operationally different than his previous trips under the knife.
I am as big of a Tiger hater as anybody, but people have to remember that they guy is still 41. Granted, it is an old 41 with a lot of mileage on those years (steroids will do that to a body), but Fred Couples (another player with a history of back issues) was just on the front page of the leaderboard for a majority of The Masters at the age of 57.
People look at Tiger’s career and their perspective is that of every other sport where an athlete is generally retired by 40.
The Twitter-sphere was full of proclamations and pleas for him to retire on Thursday, but why? What incentive is there for Tiger to announce his retirement?
Back injuries are fickle and can often spell the end of a player’s career, but Tiger can take 2-3 years off and still return to the game in his mid-40s. Phil is a top-20 player in the world and he turned 47 in June.
Tiger’s never been the most outreaching to his fans, but he doesn’t owe them anything and, frankly, he is toying with them.
The problem I have with Tiger and his flunkies (Mark Steinberg and Notah Begay) is the disingenuous narrative trotted out about how close he is to returning.
Tiger did not officially pull out of The Masters until the Friday before the event and Notah Begay reported in the last week that a U.S. Open appearance was well within the realm of possibilities for Woods.
Even the most ardent Tiger supporters had to roll their eyes of the thought of the injury-riddled Woods returning to the game at the longest golf course in Open history.
The golf media and fans are so desperate for Tiger news that they take any snippet of gossip and turn it into a headline. Tiger knows this and because his brand is the only thing keeping him relevant and making him money, he leads on the golfing world to stay in the news cycle.
It is ironic how the guy who often decried about the burden of fame now utilizes it as his last resource to stay in the public’s consciousness.
Woods still has a contract with Nike and signed new deals with Monster and Bridgestone in the offseason and he isn’t of much use to them if he isn’t on the golf course.
So how does he stay relevant? By convincing the golfing world that he is tantalizingly close to coming back and regaining his form – that it is just a matter of time before he is wearing red and pumping his fist on Sundays again.
That’s bullshit, but that mirage is his brand now.
Every time some news of Tiger comes out, B-roll of him with that Nike swoosh on his hat is played on every sports station. This allows him to stay relevant and keep his high-paying sponsors happy.
So following this surgery and the expected six month absence, the Tiger saga is going to be right where it was at the end of 2016. Playing a will he/won’t he in regards to the Hero World Challenge in December and a big question mark surrounding game and health heading into 2018 season.
Will he come back? Probably. Will he continue to have back problems? Most likely. Is it possible for him to reinvent himself as a top 30 player? Absolutely.
Tiger’s future is as uncertain as it has ever been, but nothing would be accomplished by him proclaiming some grand declaration about the future of his career because he, like the rest of the golfing world, has no idea what it entails.