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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tiger Woods at peace, but still not healthy

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You could see it in his eyes at Crooked Stick this past weekend at the BMW Championship, and in his overall facial expressions. From time to time, there was a grimace and the occasional display of the gait in his step that he generally hides fairly well.

While Tiger Woods’ play this year has been up and down, he has at many times shown the brilliance that has made him the most revered golfer in the modern era and certainly one of the greatest ever to play.

Through it all, he seems to be relaxed and less guarded, with the plethora of well-publicized personal issues seeming to be further and further behind him, leaving him with an opportunity to simply focus on competitive golf.

But getting close to Woods is still a challenge and while he was diligent in honoring his responsibilities to the press in official tournament controlled settings, he was forever the evasive one in terms of speaking beyond that formal environment. With nothing to lose and certainly far less prominence than the larger media outlets, I strategically placed myself in a location at the Crooked Stick clubhouse in which he would have to pass by to exit after his final round was complete and took my chances on speaking to him as he proceeded through. Much to my chagrin he was actually quite conversant for a minute, long enough to answer a couple of questions in a manner that was somewhat between hurried and polite.

When I asked him if he was at a point where he could actually concentrate on golf and not various other distractions he smiled and said, “Certainly,” as he paused to sign a golf glove for a young fan.

When I queried him about his physical condition the look on his face changed and he quickly responded that his health was not an issue despite what was clearly visible to me during the tournament.

Before he was whisked away by a virtual entourage of security I proposed the question of what an extended hiatus from golf might do for his physical condition and he looked at me as if  to say, “Are you really serious?” said thanks, and quickly sped away.

Not exactly an extensive interview you might say, but still enough from him to garner the following opinion. Tiger Woods is still not 100 percent healthy and despite that, has played some remarkably spirited golf this year. While that does not bode well for his opponents, it is clear that they too realize this window of opportunity that coincides with his physical condition not being where he needs it to be, which previously allowed him to play at a level that most of them could never fathom.

It should be noted that Woods has not used his health as an excuse for any poor performances this year, and it is obvious he would prefer not to discuss it at all.

However, when you see the periodic displays of pain he is weathering, you can only wonder what he undoubtedly perceived as the ill-advised hiatus reference I made to him would do for his body and subsequently his golf game. Has the pressure to fulfill obligations to his sponsors and the game itself completely overridden his ability to sit out and let his body totally heal? Probably so. Did Woods pushing himself so hard to recover and return to the game prematurely cause him to fall short of his expectations?

I say yes.

Look, everybody would take the year he has had this season. But it still is not what we are accustomed to seeing from him, and more importantly what he expects from himself. That being said, Woods is not getting any younger and his quest to surpass the record of most major championships won must be tempered with realistic expectations and his own desire to live his life accordingly both on and off of the golf course.

Should he never win another major, his place in golf’s hierarchy is cemented firmly. However, by his own standards, he will continue the mission to play at a high level, despite some obvious deficiencies in his physical stature.

The real question is, what is more important to him, a return to the top of the golf mountain or simply being content with life both personally and professionally. If the bravado he displayed at the recent BMW Championship in Carmel was any indication, it is definitely not the latter of the two. That certainly is his decision, but in the long run without good health, the results probably will not suffice in terms of what a champion like Woods expects from himself and also to those who continue to scrutinize his every move in a fashion that can only be described as unreasonable and selfish.

Danny Bridges, who is a dismal putt putt golfer, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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