Are injuries hindering Tiger Woods? | Golf | CBC Sports

GolfAre injuries hindering Tiger Woods?

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 | 03:43 PM

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Tiger Woods of the United States hits a shot during the practice round prior to the start of the 112th U.S. Open.  (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)  Tiger Woods of the United States hits a shot during the practice round prior to the start of the 112th U.S. Open. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

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Television images during a practice round on Tuesday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco showed Tiger Woods flinch as he stopped on his downswing when a camera clicked away before he had struck his ball.

Could numerous injuries be taking a toll?

It was a familiar and, frankly, worrying snapshot.

Television images during a practice round on Tuesday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco showed Tiger Woods flinch as he stopped on his downswing when a camera clicked away before he had struck his ball.

It certainly wasn't a pretty picture: Woods battling physical issues and reacting to a relatively minor transgression by a member of the media throng. Imagine that?

It all comes as the U.S. Open is about to tee off, the season's second major and one where Woods enters as the favourite but not an overwhelming one. Currently ranked fourth in the world, Woods is front-and-centre in the conversation, but he's certainly not the only talking point. That's the reality that is unlikely to change. 

Woods seemed relaxed during his Tuesday media availability but also showed traces of the passive-aggressive side he often uses to keep pesky inquisitors on their back foot.

"It's always something with you guys," he said, in reaction to a follow-up question that asked whether he felt he had to win a major to validate his most recent comeback. 

"I've dealt with [questions] my entire career, ever since I was an amateur and playing all the way through and to professional golf, it hasn't changed."

Well, maybe there is another "something". Even right now, during a season where he has played quite well in winning twice and almost reeling in Rory McIlroy in another, Woods shows signs of a golfer who is battling physical issues just as much as mental or competitive obstacles.

Multiple knee surgeries, a back - he was seen stretching it out for a few minutes after Tuesday's incident - that requires him to wear soft-heeled shoes and general wear and tear on his body over two decades could all be taking a toll.

It all adds up, not as much as his 73 PGA Tour titles, 14 of which are majors, but you get the point.

It's interesting that Woods, not one to divulge any unnecessary information to the nosey media, has, at least for him, talked openly about the need to make swing changes to "take pressure" of his left knee.

Those changes, overseen by his Canadian coach Sean Foley, have taken time, but in winning at Bay Hill and Muirfield Village over the past few months, the tweaks seem to be well on their way to being completed.

All of this may be signs of an inevitable process:  his 36 year old body may be limiting him.  He'll soon be 37 and in sports years, it's a very old 37.

The most vivid image of his physical struggles came four years ago when the U.S. Open was played at the other end of the state, at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

Hobbling around on one leg, Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open in an exhausting Monday playoff and soon after pulled the plug on the rest of that season. He came back in 2009 and though he wasn't quite as dominant as usual, he was voted PGA Tour player of the year.

Then the dry patch followed, until another era in his career seemingly started with his dominating win at Arnold Palmer's tournament in March.

"We can play for a very long time...playing careers have extended," said Woods, in reference to advancements in weight training and numerous technical improvements that he has always cited as reasons why he wasn't too worried about his health.

The former World No. 1 - using the word "former" still seems a bit odd in describing Woods - knows of what he speaks. Woods revolutionized attitudes toward physical conditioning in golf. Wouldn't it be ironic if it's physical issues that hold him back from breaking the all-time records he so covets?

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