ARMOLD: Here's hoping that Woods can bring 'gravy'
- Tiger Woods is skipping this years Masters tournament while recovering from recent back surgeries.
- Woods will have now missed two of the past three Masters.
- Woods has 14 career major victories, four shy of Jack Nicklaus' record.
It’s a good thing Tiger Woods is missing this year’s Masters.
Even the most ardent of Woods’ fans would have to agree with that.
That’s meant with no ill will toward Tiger.
It’s no secret that Woods is dealing with a back injury that has required multiple surgeries and has severely limited his play over the past few years. It's caused him to miss the Masters for the second time since 2014.
By all accounts, mostly his own, Woods is progressing toward playing again in 2016.
It also appears, however, that Tiger is, finally, properly addressing the injury — one that it looked like he might not be able to overcome.
While he does have a bum back, and his left leg has betrayed him as well, Tiger’s biggest problem might have been between the ears.
A true perfectionist, Woods was never content. He was always tinkering with his swing, even when most would have deemed that unnecessary.
When Tiger dominated, it was thanks in part to a level of athleticism and physical training previously unseen in the sport. As a result, he was consistently one of the longest players off the tee.
His body slowly began betraying him, however, and his distance started fading. Combine that with improved quality of competition, and the tide swiftly turned against him.
His success got the better of him in ways he might have never expected. Woods’ influence has spurned a new generation of golfers created in his previous mold.
Athletic and skilled, with incredible focus on their craft and training, this new group isn’t intimidated by Woods simply being in their group anymore — a notion that used to fuel his dominance. With that gone, so too is a large part of the mental edge and confidence that served him well.
Woods did not properly address his back the first time it caused him to miss significant action. By his own admission, Woods rushed back too soon and the result is his most recent absence.
In a statement posted to his website when he announced his withdrawal from the Masters, Woods wrote: “After assessing the present condition of my back, and consulting with my medical team, I’ve decided it’s prudent to miss this year’s Masters.
“I’ve been hitting balls and training daily, but I’m not physically ready. I’ve said all along that this time I need to be cautious and do what’s best for my long-term health and career.”
Woods has undoubtedly placed an incredible amount of pressure on himself throughout his career. Winning used to be the only thing even remotely acceptable to Tiger.
Now, Tiger seems to be a reflective champion, one content with his 79 PGA Tour victories and 14 career majors, four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ all-time mark.
The last time Woods spoke with the media, before the Hero World Challenge in December, he said of his accomplishments: “I think pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy.”
Yes, his mental edge may be gone, but perhaps Woods can now someday pull off a feat that eluded his prior superior self — winning a major when trailing after 54 holes.
After all, this year serves as the perfect reminder of what’s possible in this glorious game. It's the 30th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ 18th and final major title at the age of 46 at Augusta National.
Nicklaus commented on Woods’ chances Tuesday in an interview before this year’s Champions Dinner.
"I don't think he's done," Nicklaus said. "I think Tiger is going to win more tournaments."
"Does that mean his chances are as good as they were? Of course it doesn't mean that," Nicklaus added. "But he'll be able to play healthily — if he gets healthy — until he's 50. I caught lightning in a bottle at 46."
With that in mind, here’s hoping Tiger will soon dish out a Thanksgiving-sized portion of that "gravy."
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.