If ever there was a year for Tiger Woods to resume his climb up Mount Nicklaus, this was it.
Consider this foursome of favorable major venues:
Augusta: He’s a four-time Masters winner, and though he hasn’t won there since 2005, he has finished in the top 6 in seven of his past eight appearances.
Pinehurst: No wins in two U.S. Open starts there, but both times he finished inside the top 3.
Royal Liverpool: He won the last time the Open Championship was held there, in 2006.
Valhalla: Won the PGA Championship there in 2000.
Everything seemed to be perfectly aligned for Woods to get off the major schneid. Now, it’s unknown whether he will even be physically able to compete at any of this year’s major championships.
The first one, the Masters, is already out of the picture after Woods announced Tuesday that he underwent surgery for a pinched nerve and would miss the year’s first major for the first time in his pro career.
The second one, the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, seems unlikely, too. Woods said that he could resume chipping and putting by the end of the month, which wouldn’t give him much time to prepare for the June 12-15 event.
Already he has alluded to the fact that he will have to miss “several upcoming tournaments.” Rushing his return could put him back in the doctor’s office.
All season, Woods has little resembled the No. 1 player in the world, the guy who won three big-time titles (two WGCs, Players) and five times overall in 2013. It’s saying something when his best performance in the past few months was a stunning playoff loss at his own event. His best finish in four starts this year was an injury-plagued tie for 25th at Doral.
Yet after everything Woods has gone through in his career – the incredible dominance, the swing changes, the injuries, the scandal – he was still on pace to catch Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
Monday’s back surgery could prolong Woods’ career, or it might just be another setback for his brittle body.
With so many details unknown, this much seems clear: 2014 is looking more and more like a lost year.