Tiger Woods' withdrawal from next week's Open Championship has been greeted in the locker room with a mixture of disappointment and concern. The former world No 1 announced yesterday that he will miss the British major for the second time in four years, although the implications for his future caused just as much consternation.
Woods' absence from Royal St George's wasn't unexpected. The 35-year-old has played just nine holes in 12 weeks because of injuries to his left knee and Achilles and missed last month's US Open at Congressional. Last week Woods admitted his recovery had only allowed him to putt since pulling out of The Players after nine holes in mid May.
"Unfortunately, I've been advised that I should not play in the British Open," Woods said on his website. "As I stated at the AT&T National, I am only going to come back when I'm 100 per cent ready. I do not want to risk further injury. That's different for me, but I'm being smarter. I'm very disappointed and want to express my regrets to British Open fans."
Woods famously won the 2008 US Open on "one leg", when he played with a torn ACL in his left knee, as well as with a stress fracture in his tibia. The resulting ACL reconstruction – the fourth operation on his left knee – saw him skip Royal Birkdale and the USPGA at Oakland Hills as he was sidelined for eight months. This will be the fourth time he has missed a major in his 15-year career.
The Royal and Ancient will not be too alarmed at his absence. At Birkdale, the 200,000 attendance was as forecast, as was the British TV figures. The US audience may have "dropped off a cliff" but the R&A have signed their TV deals and have the money in the bank.
But for the player now ranked down at 17th in the world this is just the latest setback. Since the revelations of multiple affairs emerged 19 months ago which led to his divorce, Woods has failed to win in 23 tournaments and seen his reputation plummet. He dropped heavy hints of a return to form with a fourth-place finish at the Masters in April, but he had sprained his troublesome knee and Achilles while hitting a ball from under a tree at Augusta. The word is that Woods is confident of returning at the WGC event in Akron in four weeks' time – and then playing in the following week's USPGA Championship in Atlanta. But the long-term fears are as inevitable as they are obvious. Padraig Harrington summed up the mood of his colleagues preparing here for the Scottish Open.
"It's unfortunate for the game of golf," said the Dubliner, who actually won the first two majors which Woods missed. "It would still have been nice to have him there and create some of the buzz at the event. Let's hope it isn't that bad."Reuse content