Tiger’s lay-off will be good for the sport, says O’Meara

A good thing for the game, the worst news possible. Out for three months, out for a year, possibly longer. Will never be the same again, will be better than ever...

Yes, golf was still in a state of shock yesterday at the news that Tiger Woods will be sidelined for the rest of the season as he undergoes radical knee surgery and therefore it was rather inevitable that the reaction would be confused and contradictory.

Mark O’Meara, for instances, thinks Woods’s absence will benefit golf, which might seem a little strange coming from Tiger’s best friend. "As big as he is, the game is even bigger," said O'Meara. "The [American] Tour will survive. I think it will be good for the game."

That was in direct contrast to Arnold Palmer‘s words of despair. “This could have a dramatic effect on the game,” said the King. “In fact, I’m not sure the game will be able to handle it. The sooner he is back the better.”

So when will this be? One surgeon, Simon Moyes, believes that after the reconstruction on his anterior cruciate ligaments he could be back on the course by September, before the Ryder Cup even. “Once he has had his operation, I would expect him to be out of action for three months."

This was an entirely different prognosis to that of Dr Jim Bradley, the team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He said: “In pro football, we say we get a guy back from ACL reconstruction in six months, but in fact, they're really not right until they go through a full season. It's almost a year's time before they're back to where they were beforehand."

Meanwhile, Dr Kal Parmar, a specialist from Pure Sports Medicine, Britain’s premier sports injury practice, poured just a little scepticism on the claims that he is certain to re-emerge, as his coach says, “better than ever“. “It all hinges on his rehabilitation,” read a statement from Dr Parmar’s office. “Some of the future problems that he might have to contend with are cartilage tears, knee instability and arthritis.”

Bernhard Langer, a fellow Master champion, had obviously heard something chillingly similar. “I've spoken to a couple of physios and they say it's a serious injury,” said the German. “There could be some chance he might not play again or play to the level he has.”

Hank Haney brushed off these fears with utter indignation. "His knee hasn’t been right for a long time and he’s won, what, 10 of his last 13 tournaments, with two seconds and a fifth,“ said Woods’s coach. “The guy has so much heart. After they finally get this fixed, how can anybody think he won’t play better than he ever has?”

Haney is still stunned by what he saw a month ago when Woods was told in a Florida clinic that he had a double stress fracture of the tibia to go with his dodgy knee and that the preferred treatment was three weeks on crutches and three weeks of inactivity. "Tiger looked at the doctor and said, 'I'm playing in the U.S. Open, and I'm going to win',” recalled Haney. “And then he started putting on his shoes. He looked at me and said, 'Come on, Hank. We'll just putt today.'"

No wonder then, that the Texan believes his rivals will suffer when the new improved Woods resurfaces. He may have an immediate anomaly to redress if Phil Mickelson can live up to the sums of the stats men. They calculated yesterday that if the world No 2 wins either The Open or USPGA, a world championship and two other events he will leapfrog his nemesis in the rankings. It may not be wise to make No 1 angry, however.