Advice to Tiger: Get healthy at any cost

By John FeinsteinAugust 4, 2014, 7:50 pm

The sight of Tiger Woods limping to a golf cart, in serious pain on Sunday, was painful to watch.

At that moment – and at this moment – liking or disliking Woods is irrelevant. He is one of the great athletes of our lifetime and watching him fight a losing battle – at least right now – with his body is no fun for anyone. For the record: if he attempts to play the PGA Championship this week, regardless of what doctors tell him, he’s crazy. He needs to rest his back for a long time and build it back up slowly and hope that he can have a born-again career beginning next year at age 39.

Woods needs to forget about Jack Nicklaus. He needs to forget about winning a 15th major and absolutely forget about meeting obligations to sponsors; cancel all contracts, if need be.

He needs to figure out a way to be healthy again for an extended period of time. Sunday’s walk-off at Firestone was Woods’ fifth since May 2010. Golf isn’t football. Players rarely suffer an injury so serious that they can’t finish a round.

Healthy doesn’t mean playing through pain or feeling good enough to give it a try. Healthy means pain free and feeling as if you’re able to do anything you want to do with a golf club in your hands. Because back problems tend to be chronic for anyone, but especially for golfers, Woods may not be able to get there. But he needs to at least make a serious attempt.

He needs to tell his agent, Mark Steinberg, to not call him to talk business. He needs to tell his sponsors to go away for a while, and he needs to cancel those overseas commitments for appearance fees. He doesn’t need the money. He needs to be healthy.

When Woods showed to play in Washington, D.C., in late June at the tournament that benefits his foundation, some health experts were surprised. On March 31, Woods had undergone a microdiscetomy on his back, a procedure designed to relieve pressure on a pinched nerve. Many doctors said then that an elite athlete usually returns to compete in “three-to-four months.” But they all added it might be months afterward before the patient would be anywhere close to 100 percent.

Woods is an elite athlete, but he is a 38-year-old elite athlete who has had four knee surgeries, has put huge pressure on his back with his abnormally violent golf swing, and has built up his upper body to a point where it is almost difficult for him to carry all the muscle he has developed.

One option was to take the rest of the year off. But Woods wanted to appease a new sponsor for his D.C. tournament. Regardless of what occurred in the back rooms here’s what did happen in public: Friday before the event at Congressional, Woods dramatically announced he would play the following week. Three days later, he made it clear that he would not have played that week if not for his involvement in the event.

He then missed the cut by four shots (only the 10th missed cut of his 19-year professional career) and declared that he was pain free and optimistic about his recovery. At the British Open three weeks later, he talked about being more “explosive,” with his swing. He then played one good round and three bad ones. The pattern was continuing at Firestone before the swing-now-seen-a-million-times took place Sunday on the second hole.

He’d hit a poor tee shot on the second hole, giving himself an awkward lie in thick grass on the front side of a fairway bunker. In hindsight given that he wasn’t going anywhere in the golf tournament, he probably should have declared the ball unplayable rather than put his back at risk by taking a swing which he couldn’t complete without falling backward. When he did go backward, he landed awkwardly in the bunker and that was pretty much that.

Again, one has to wonder about decision-making here: Once he felt the pain run through his lower back, why did he try to play through it? To what end? You’re still recovering from major back surgery and you feel pain like that, why keep playing? Maybe try another swing or two to see if the spasm eases up, but when it doesn’t, get out of there. Playing six more holes was foolish. There was nothing to gain. It wasn’t as if walking off was anything new for him: get off the course and get treatment. Someone should have stopped him.

Maybe this will turn out to have just been a bad spasm but even if that’s all it is, it’s a sign that the back is not completely healthy. What’s more, it doesn’t seem like there’s a way to go out and play golf without putting himself at risk.

When Woods came back in June he claimed that he had learned his lesson from this experience; that he wasn’t going to fight pain anymore to come back too quickly; that he was more mature now and had learned to let his body heal.

Those words sound empty right now. Woods needs someone to sit him down, look him in the eye and tell him this may be his last chance to get healthy – truly healthy. If he does that, he can still be a great player in his 40s. Others have done that in golf. But if he keeps pushing to return too soon, as he has done repeatedly in the past, his days of greatness might be over.

And that would be a sad ending.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm