Everyone needs to stop dismissively saying that Tiger Woods should retire. That is not anyone’s call but his.
That might be the inevitable outcome after the golfing legend underwent his fourth back surgery in barely three years on Wednesday, in what continues to appear headed to be a painful and sad ending to what once seemed destined to be the most prolific career of anyone in the game’s history.
But Woods, like so many other athletes facing career-threatening injuries (see locally: David Wright), fully has the right to try yet again to get his health in order and to attempt to complete this, yes, increasingly unlikely comeback.
Even if his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major titles stalled a few years ago at 14, and the legitimate question now is simply whether Tiger even will participate in another one.
“The surgery went well, and I’m optimistic this will relieve my back spasms and pain,” Woods said in a statement released Thursday on his website. “When healed, I look forward to getting back to a normal life, playing with my kids, competing in professional golf and living without the pain I have been battling so long.”
Just two days earlier, while announcing plans to design a public course in Missouri, Woods had offered that his back was improving. He then proceeded to hit a couple of shots on a par-3 hole, putting one ball into a section of rocks, before hitting another 10 feet from the cup.
One day later, Woods was at the Texas Back Institute near Dallas undergoing single-level fusion surgery, which doctors have said comes with a six-month recovery time, thereby knocking him out for the majority of another majors cycle after he’d already skipped The Masters earlier this month.
Remember, this latest surgery comes after Woods had missed three months in 2014 following a micro-discectomy — and after failing to make the cut in three of the four majors the following year, sitting out another 15 months following two more procedures late in 2015.
After encouragingly returning finally with a strong showing this past December at his Hero World Challenge tournament in the Bahamas, Woods missed the cut the next month at Torrey Pines. He then was forced to withdraw from the Dubai Desert Classic in February with back spasms, after shooting an opening-round 77.
“He had consulted with a number of top people that had recommended this was the way to go if he wanted a clear and final path,” agent Mark Steinberg told the AP. “Everything he had done in the past was a temporary fix, so to speak. At that point, they thought there were other alternatives than fusion.
“You heard him say two days ago, ‘I have good days and bad days.’ This surgery, we hope, eliminates the bad days.”
The statement on Woods’ website added that the bottom disc in his lower back had “severely” narrowed, causing sciatica and major pain in his back and legs. The 41-year-old finally elected to undergo the fourth surgery, he said, because the rest and injections he was receiving didn’t solve his issues.
Steinberg also stressed that Woods is “pretty encouraged” that he “should be better than he’s been in the past five years.”
That seems doubtful at this point, obviously, but whether this enables Tiger to pursue renewing his playing career — even without his quest for Nicklaus’ record — firmly remains his choice.
OUTTA BOTTE EXPERIENCE
For the fourth straight year, LeBron James isn’t likely to win NBA MVP honors this season, with triple-double machines Russell Westbrook and James Harden the clear favorites.
But just like when Barkley and Karl Malone were winning the award over Michael Jordan in the 1990s, LeBron is still the best player on the court whenever he’s in uniform. Especially this time of year.
— Nights like Thursday — with NBA and NHL playoff games on the tube, including the Rangers winning in overtime, and with Noah Syndergaard pitching — always remind me that I need more TVs in the house.
— Need further proof winning the Stanley Cup ain’t easy?
The Blackhawks have won three titles in the last seven years. After getting swept – SWEPT – by ex-Isles coach Peter Laviolette and No. 8 Nashville, Chicago also has lost three times in the first round in that span.
— He actually gave up a few runs to the Phillies, but Syndergaard now has 30 Ks and zero walks this year. Throwing 100 mph.
— I actually might watch the Home Run Derby this year if MLB is smart and includes Aaron Judge in it.
— Seriously, pro football is the best sport going, can’t get enough of it. But I would watch 10 hours of the Yule Log in July before I’d watch a show breaking down the upcoming season’s NFL schedule.
With his career once again in doubt following his fourth back surgery, here are my Top 5 favorite Tiger Woods moments:
5. THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW, 1978
4. WINS FIRST GREEN JACKET (by 12 strokes!), 1997
3. THE TIGER SLAM (Four straight majors), 2001
2. BRITISH OPEN FOR DAD, 2006
1. SWEET 16 AT THE MASTERS, 2005