What Now, Tiger?

Tiger Woods once seemed godlike before he became a latest and maybe many absolute explanation that no one is. Now, like everybody else, all Woods has is hope.

Nevertheless, Woods’ fans had a lot of it entrance into 2017. The 14-time vital champion, who had customarily incited 41, had returned to foe after a 15-month absence, and he’d shown a kind of speed and easy cadence that belied a 3 behind procedures he had endured given Mar 2014. Woods seemed carefree as well, signing adult to start a year with an desirous 4 tournaments in 5 weeks. But when he missed a cut in a initial one during Torrey Pines and afterwards withdrew in Dubai, citing behind spasms after an opening 77, wish gave approach to hurt.

At a Champions Dinner before a Masters, that noted his fifth true missed major, Woods told Jack Nicklaus about his debilitating behind pain. Nicklaus implored Woods to see his longtime earthy therapist, and Woods had one eventuality with Pete Egoscue, yet 4 days after underwent alloy medicine on his reduce spine. The subsequent vital he can even anticipate personification is a 2018 Masters.

All that was deflating enough, yet during 3 a.m. on Memorial Day, Florida military found Woods’ automobile pulled off to a side of a highway nearby his Jupiter Island home, a engine running, a blinker on and Woods defunct behind a wheel. Woods was arrested and requisitioned on DUI.

The indirect mop shot of a rumpled Woods and military videos of his unsuccessful field- seriousness exam non-stop him to open ridicule. The greeting was suggestive of what Woods endured after he crashed his automobile outward his home on Thanksgiving 2009 and was after suggested to have been carrying churned extra-marital affairs.

This time, Woods’ 2015 Mercedes had dents and dual prosaic tires on a driver’s side, and he told military he had taken a multiple of remedy drugs, including a painkiller Vicodin and a opiate Xanax. Later, in a statement, he pronounced he’d had “an astonishing greeting to remedy medication.” Woods, who seemed to entirely cooper- ate with police, confirmed he had not been drinking, that was upheld by a .000 reading on an Intoxilyzer test.

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The golf universe voiced magnetism and support. “I consider that he’s struggling, and we wish him well,” Nicklaus said. “I wish he gets out of it, and we wish he plays golf again. He needs a lot of support from a lot of people. And I’ll be one of them.”

Woods was contrite in a prepared statement:

“I know a astringency of what we did and take full shortcoming for my actions. we would like to apologize with all my heart to my family, friends and a fans. we design some-more from myself, too. we will do all in my energy to safeguard that this never happens again.”

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On Jun 19, one day after a U.S. Open, Woods took to Twitter to announce his initial pierce in that direction: “I’m now receiving veteran assistance to conduct my drugs and a ways that we bargain with behind pain and a nap disorder. we wish to appreciate everybody for a extraordinary escape of support and bargain generally fans and players on tour.”

“I’m not during autocracy to contend where he is, yet he is receiving in-patient treatment,” Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, told ESPN.com. “Tiger has been traffic with so many pain physically. And that leads to insomnia and nap issues. This has been going on for a prolonged time.”

But Woods is a bigger poser than ever.

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Complicating matters is a problem in meaningful what to believe. Woods’ stop-start story of statements regarding to injuries and his pretended recoveries has fostered a deeply doubtful wait-and-see attitude. When, after a 15-month deficiency from competition, he seemed to be overhanging openly final December, Woods told a media, “I’m sitting here in front of we guys with a opposite existence given things have softened so much.” But a subsequent month he looked bad during Torrey Pines and worse in Dubai. Woods during initial insisted he had been “in no pain during all,” and Steinberg pronounced a spasms had 0 to do with haughtiness problems.

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The fist-pump from Woods during his Hero World Challenge eventuality final Dec was a impulse fans rejoiced at, desiring his lapse was imminent.

It finished Woods’ lapse to competition, nonetheless he continued to underplay his condition. After blank his second true Masters, Woods attended an proclamation for a new march on Apr 18 and pronounced he was carrying “good days and bad days.” But he astounded everybody when he underwent a alloy medicine a subsequent day in Dallas. “The medicine went well, and I’m confident this will soothe my behind spasms and pain,” Woods pronounced in his statement. “When healed, we demeanour brazen to removing behind to a normal life, personification with my kids, competing in veteran golf and vital yet a pain we have been battling so long.” Added Steinberg: “This surgery, we hope, eliminates a bad days.”

Five weeks later, Woods pronounced in a post on his website that he’d compulsory a medicine given of consistent pain. “I could no longer live with a pain we had. We attempted each probable non-surgical route, and 0 worked,” he wrote. “I had good days and bad days, yet a pain was customarily there, and we couldn’t do much. Even fibbing down hurt. we had haughtiness pain with anything we did and was during a finish of my rope.”

The post continued: “It has been customarily over a month given we underwent alloy medicine on my back, and it is tough to demonstrate how many improved we feel. It was present haughtiness relief. we haven’t felt this good in years. . . . There’s a prolonged approach to go, yet as we said, difference can't communicate how good it feels to be pain-free.” Yet 4 days later, Woods’ ingestion of pain remedy apparently was a means of his serious impairment.

Many questions remain. Here are six.

1. Is Tiger’s behind medicine means for optimism, or is it another setback?
As bad as a tenure anterior lumbar interbody fusion sounds, and as wince-inducing as devising vertebrae being screwed and glued together can be, a fact is that a procession mostly eliminates what is many debilitating for a golfer: haughtiness pain.

Three major-championship winners who had identical procedures—Lanny Wadkins, Lee Trevino and Retief Goosen—all deliberate a surgeries final resorts, yet all emerged immediately giveaway of haughtiness pain and came behind to a diversion with a new eagerness.

Wadkins and Trevino had their procedures after their unchanging PGA Tour careers (Wadkins during 58 and Trevino during 64), yet Goosen, a 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open winner, underwent a front deputy in 2012 during 43.

“At that point, we couldn’t have played golf again yet a surgery,” says Goosen, whose final feat came in 2009. “It was successful. we have 0 behind pain. we haven’t mislaid any operation of suit or any speed and don’t have any difficulty attack a ball. My brief diversion and putting aren’t as good, yet that’s separate to my back.”

Woods also reported “instant haughtiness relief.” If that allows him, after his latest rehab, to again pitch with leisure and speed, afterwards Wadkins, Trevino and Goosen all determine he has a good possibility to be a leader again.

“My prediction: He’ll come behind in a fire of glory,” says Trevino, a many bullish of a trio. “He’s not too old—far from it. If he gets fixed, when he comes behind to attack and feels no pain, he’s going to be so happy that he competence be some-more dangerous than he was before.”

2. If he was pain-free, because was he holding pain medication?
Woods confirmed he wrongly churned remedy drugs, in this box Vicodin and Xanax—although customarily a toxicology news can definitively endorse what drugs were in his system. It removed Thanksgiving 2009, when his then-wife, Elin, told military that Woods had active prescriptions for Vicodin and Ambien.

He also pronounced he was pain-free.

Steinberg told ESPN.com that there is no counterbalance in Woods professing no pain yet afterwards wanting diagnosis to bargain with a problem caused by ongoing pain.

“I don’t consider we can put dual and dual together,” he said. “It’s such a formidable state, such a formidable situation. If you’re in that many pain for so many years … Tiger has been perplexing to figure out how to live a life and indeed have a life. He is where he is right now. I’m blissful he is holding responsibility.”

It’s different either Woods had an separate damage or ailment that stirred him to find pain relief. The players who underwent behind medicine pronounced that yet there was no haughtiness pain, they were bruise for about a week from a incisions and ubiquitous invasiveness of surgery. According to an familiarity of Woods, shortly before his detain and a month after a surgery, Woods pronounced that he was still feeling pain from a rent in his midsection.

Ross Kinnaird

Tiger’s unsatisfactory play during Torrey Pines and afterwards in Dubai done it seem apparent he wasn’t personification pain-free.

There is an comment of Woods holding Vicodin as distant behind as 2008, when he was pang from a ripped ACL that caused him so many pain during a U.S. Open during Torrey Pines. According to his manager during a time, Hank Haney, Woods took a drug during that year’s Masters, where he finished second yet putted poorly. Woods came to trust that a Vicodin had influenced his touch, and chose not to take it during Torrey Pines, substituting Motrin or Advil.

In a emanate of Woods’ arrest, many observers avoided any idea that Woods could have a drug issue. But Paul Azinger was some-more candid. “He’s had a lot of behind surgeries, he’s had knee surgeries, he’s had an Achilles issue. He’s had a lot of pain,”
Azinger said. “It would be easy for Tiger to get bending on that, that really addictive drug, if he’s bending on it. we wish he’s not.”

3. Has he missed too many golf?
Woods won 5 tournaments in 2013, yet given afterwards he has been a part-time golfer during best. And given Aug 2015, he has played in customarily 3 events.Extended leaves from a rival diversion don’t customarily work out well, even for a greats. Bobby Jones late in 1930 after winning a Grand Slam during 28, yet he came behind 4 years after to play in a initial Masters as a host. Much was anticipated, yet Jones beheld a jerk in his putting cadence on his second hole of a initial spin and “felt that something was radically wrong,” wrote Charles Price. On Jones’ fifth hole, now a 14th, a buzz of a film camera caused him to stop his backswing on his tee shot and left him strangely unsettled. “He knew during that present that something had left out of his game, forever,” Price wrote. “It wasn’t that Jones had mislaid his nerves. But something was gripping him from creation his nerves work for him instead of opposite him.”

More recently, Trevino has no doubt he returned to a diversion not utterly as good after being strike by lightning in 1975. Azinger mislaid his corner after cancer and chemotherapy kept him from foe for scarcely dual years. Jose Maria Olazabal missed all of 1996 with a crippling box of rheumatoid arthritis. Though he won a 1999 Masters, a illness and deficiency derailed what had been a solid stand toward greatness. Even Ben Hogan, who after his near-fatal collision in early 1949 won 6 of a subsequent 9 majors he played by 1953, believed he was never again as good as he had been in 1948.

Woods knows he has mislaid something in terms of speed and power. But it’s roughly a clarification of a good actor to be means to make effective compensations for such inevitabilities. What matters is how many Woods has lost—and maybe can’t recover—mentally. As Nicklaus said, “You don’t know what’s going by somebody’s conduct when they’ve been harmed as prolonged as he’s been injured.”

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Tiger isn’t expected to be behind personification any contest golf until after he turns 42 in December.

4. Is he too aged to come back?
Only one golfer given 1900 has won some-more than one vital past a age of 42: Julius Boros took a 1963 U.S. Open during 43 and a 1968 PGA during 48. Hogan won 3 during 40 in 1953, yet no more. Nicklaus won dual during 40 and his 18th and final during 46. Harry Vardon was 41 and 44 in winning his final dual Open Championships. Mark O’Meara won his customarily dual during 41 in 1998.

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In Woods’ preference is that chosen athletes in all sports are staying on tip longer. Against him is additional wear and tear—not customarily from his injuries, yet also from a power with that he has competed on a large theatre given his mid-teens—that some contend aged him as a golfer over his years.

5. How will a new open chagrin harm Tiger?
Woods, who over a past 8 years has stoically weathered a emanate of maybe a fastest and many steep tumble from beauty ever in open life, will have to hoop another identical hit. His children are now aged adequate to clarity what a universe is observant about their father. He has certainly serve shop-worn his ability as an endorser—one whose once-yearly $100 million-plus off-course gain has forsaken to about $35 million. Can he keep from losing whatever is left of a certainty and clarity of destiny that noted his opinion in his prime?

Then again, Woods competence be toughened to such feelings after carrying survived 2009. It’s also probable that his assign will be reduced, open visualisation will cold and a detain will blur from view.

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Indeed, a different of a greeting in 2009—a widespread open hatred to pier on someone who has been by enough—could assistance Woods float out a storm. Whatever he feels inside, or as vicious as amicable media can be, he has been upheld by demonstrations of support and magnetism from his galleries. He concurred as many after his latest surgery, saying, “I also wish to appreciate a fans for your unusual support. It means some-more than we know.”

All by his dim period, Woods has schooled that when he is means to uncover even a spark of his former talent, a sports universe is captivated, and open sins or embarrassments are mostly forgotten.

6. Does he have a genuine support complement among other players?
Much has been done in a past year of a new Tiger, some-more intent socially. In his purpose as partner captain during a Ryder Cup, he was praised for his munificence with knowledge. He is also on amicable media. But in some-more private conversations with several of his peers, some of whom Woods has called friends, what emerges is a removed figure who is frequency seen—whether during Medalist Golf Club or his restaurant, The Woods Jupiter—and who shares small and trusts less. A sold Woods gift is to content a actor who is in row to offer support and good luck, followed by a few exchanges. And afterwards … nothing.

Older players who have famous him for years and feel a golf reciprocity confess that they have frequency if ever socialized with Woods off
the course. Young players—some of whom contend he was their impulse flourishing up—and who penchant a singular opportunities to still play with him, don’t feel tighten to him like they do an comparison actor like Phil Mickelson, who has been a many some-more jovial mentor.
What’s left to other players is now a mostly unhappy glance of an idol who, over unbiased jock banter, prefers distance.

CHASKA, MN - SEPTEMBER 28: Vice-captains Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods of a United States demeanour on during use before to a 2016 Ryder Cup during Hazeltine National Golf Club on Sep 28, 2016 in Chaska, Minnesota.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/PGA of America around Getty Images)
PGA of America around Getty Images

Tiger has grown closer to his peers by his partner captain work during a Ryder and Presidents Cups.

“He’s a classical introvert, yet one bearing into media stardom and a spotlight from early on and was a face of golf,” says Ryan Moore. “Being an introvert myself, that’s not easy to handle.”

At this point, 0 total to come easy to Woods. He has customarily done his already formidable life harder. Perhaps a dedicated lapse to golf, that went from his breakwater to his burden, can offer a home bottom for a uninformed start.

Of course, even as a golfer, he has distant some-more than ever to do and distant reduction time to do it. As Woods prepares to spin 42 in December, an aged observant applies: Hope is a good breakfast, yet it’s a bad supper.

Additional stating by Brian Wacker.

Editors’ Note: This story appears in a Aug 2017 emanate of Golf Digest.

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