A Tigerless tour
OK, how many of you thought Tiger Woods was hamming it up just a bit during the recent U.S. Open when he would bend over grimacing in pain after a golf shot?
For the record, I never thought Woods' reaction to the pain was anything other than him reacting to legitimate pain. Most folks, I suspect, felt the same, but there are some comments floating around suggesting otherwise. Woods won his 14th major championship by claiming the U.S. Open title in a spirited 19 hole playoff over Rocco Mediate last week.
Woods, almost always the fan favorite, found himself sharing that billing with Mediate. As the tournament progressed, the affable 45 year old Mediate won over a huge portion of the gallery as the fans warmed to the journeyman who was a huge underdog. While the story of Mediate was easy enough to warm up to, Woods' effort will go down as one of the best ever in sports, not just golf.
Woods sidelined himself following his second place finish in the Masters in April so that he could have his ACL repaired with arthoscopic surgery. The time it took Woods to return to the tour grew longer than anticipated as he missed Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament two weeks prior to the Open. Turns out there was a good reason.
Those who follow these things know that if Woods were healthy he would have played in the Memorial. He does that for Nicklaus. But those who follow these things also know that Woods' pursuit of Nicklaus' record 18 major championships is his ultimate goal. Golf fans knew Woods was focusing only on the Open, but there were rumblings as to the stature of his knee.
Woods hadn't played 18 holes since April and had not walked at all while playing golf. Seemed unlikely he could be a serious threat in this event. Those thoughts were soon dispersed as Woods was as competitive as ever, but there were those troubling sights of Woods grimacing in pain after certain shots. We all figured it was his surgically repaired left knee that had to sustain extreme torque on Woods' swing.
We believed that to be the case because it made sense and the announcers verified that for us. Turns out it wasn't the knee causing the pain, but it was two stress fractures in his tibia which caused the pain. The knee still isn't 100%, but that was not the reason for the pain. According to his swing coach, Hank Haney, Woods could barely walk from his living room to his kitchen in the weeks leading up to the Open.
Haney was astounded that Woods was able to walk 91 holes of golf. Haney also pointed out that when we saw Woods take a particularly long time to hit a shot, it was because he was preparing to hit his pull cut shot which is his go to shot, but also the one which caused the most pain. No offense to Mediate, because I was caught up in his effort as well, but the guy lost to a man playing on one good leg. Of course so did the rest of the field.
The backlash is Woods will now take off the rest of the season to get his leg back to full strength. That means no more majors this season nor an appearance on the Ryder Cup team. Not to mention the PGA Tour has lost its biggest draw, including the AT&T National which Woods was to host next week at Congressional Country Club.
Many of the talking heads suspected Woods may have caused more damage to his knee by playing last week, but Haney dispelled any of that talk suggesting that with plenty of time now for Woods to rehab, he will be stronger than ever when he comes back.