Tiger Woods has announced it was only a mild Achilles strain which forced his withdrawal during the WGC Cadillac Championship finale on Sunday.
The former world No 1 says he can resume hitting balls later this week and might even play next week.
It was the positive news golf had been praying for after watching him limp out on the 12th hole at Doral, yet although the delight that Woods will almost certainly be at The Masters in three weeks’ time is perfectly understandable, doubts about the short-term still bubble under.
Why, when Woods said he was “feeling great” on Saturday did the injury flare up again without warning? Whatever he claims, that question will be at the back of Woods’ mind whenever and wherever he tees it up in the forthcoming months.
Woods saw medics near his home in Florida yesterday and the concerns would have been obvious. Woods has undergone four surgeries on his left knee and last year it was a “knee and Achilles injury” which saw him sidelined for three months. Woods took to Twitter to reveal this setback will not nearly be as stark.
“Got good news from doc tonight,” posted Woods. “Only mild strain of left Achilles. Can resume hitting balls late in week and hopeful for next week.“
Don’t be surprised if he misses the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as that event is run by his former agency, IMG, and it wouldn't greatly bother him. But skipping golf heaven would be hell for Woods, who has never been absent from Masters in 16 years as a professional and who has won four green jackets.
”He has finished fourth there in the last two years despite struggling with his game,“ said Justin Rose. ”Augusta suits nobody more. This isn't good news. Hopefully he was just holding himself back for the Masters and didn't want to do any more damage.“ Blessedly, that seems to be the case.
For Woods the pain may well now be as mental as it is physical. It is still a blow because he was adamant the injuries were behind him. Last year, after withdrawing from the Players Championship at Sawgrass after 42 shots and nine holes, he missed the US Open and Open in his determination to sort out his left leg issues ”once and for all“. PAR)
Woods had finally felt able to put in the hours on the range on the course he required to help his new swing bed in. If he does have to adhere to a ”strict ball count“, as he calls it, all the recent progress, which featured him shooting a 62 to finish second at the Honda Classic, eight years ago, will be in danger of being wasted. Square one is a wretched place he thought he had abandoned for good.
It's little wonder that so many experts are feeling brave enough to predict that the 36-year-old will fall shy of the five majors he needs to overhaul Jack Nicklaus's record. As Nick Faldo said on the weekend, it's hard to envisage him winning one major at the moment, never mind a handful.
If only Woods had the luxury of speculating about an unfulfilled future. The present is urgent enough.
Contrast these emotions to those of Rose who is still celebrating the biggest win of his career. With four wins in the last 20 months, there isn't a more prolific winner on the PGA Tour. But with all the attention on Rory McIlroy, the world No 1 who justified his standing with a third-place finish in Doral, and Woods, Rose believes he can creep in under the radar in Georgia.
”I'm actually in the perfect spot,“ said the new world No 7. ”The expectations are not too high but I feel my ability is good enough to get the job done. I've learned enough to believe I have a realistic shot every time I tee it up in a major. I have now won a couple of big tournaments, where you get that major championship feel with the big crowd and so forth. The next step up is to take it to Augusta.“
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