Tiger back, looking healthy at Tavistock Cup


ORLANDO, Fla. – If there's one thing this entire Tiger Woods injury saga needed, it was a little levity to break the tension. Enter David Feherty, golf's king of levity – or at least its clown prince.

Serving as first tee announcer at the Tavistock Cup on Monday, Feherty introduced Woods by applying this needle: “Many of us arrived here in a helicopter. He came in an ambulance.” After Woods drilled his opening tee shot down the fairway, Feherty quipped: “Well, nothing fell off him.”

Needless to say, nothing fell off Woods for the remainder of the round, either. In fact, the guy appeared downright healthy. No limping, no wincing and especially no walking off the course mid-round.

This should only serve as fuel to the fire for all interested parties, with two differing schools of thought in regard to the recent left Achilles strain that forced him to withdraw during the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

One hypothesis claims that Woods was never hurt in the first place, other than suffering from a little bruised ego. It reigns as a favorite conspiracy theory of message board posters and other Tiger skeptics who maintain that since he wasn’t going to win at Doral, he’d just as soon take his ball and go home.

Like any theory, it holds the possibility of truth until it’s disproven. Recent revelations by Hank Haney in excerpts from his book “The Big Miss,” which allege that Woods often wasn’t honest in explaining how or when he was injured in the past, only help support the idea that something fishy may have been going on.

The dissenting camp takes Woods for his word, resolving that his recent maneuvers were fully due to the following chain reaction of events: His Achilles tightened up at Doral; already out of contention, he didn’t want to risk further injury; the next day, he consulted with his doctor; the doctor diagnosed it as a simple strain and told him he could resume playing golf at the end of last week; and so on Monday, he was back in competition, just eight days after what appeared to be a serious injury.

It’s hardly the stuff of a miracle recovery. In fact, David Toms also pulled out of the tournament at Doral mid-round after injuring his back. He returned just five days later at the Transitions Championship, posting a T-20 result – without the detraction of a legion of nonbelievers contending he had faked his own demise.

Call me naïve, but I’m firmly entrenched in the latter corner.

I’ve long believed – and stated – that Tiger doesn’t often speak the truth publicly, whether claiming he wasn’t happy after shooting 65 or saying he putted well when he clearly didn’t or, yes, failing to disclose his injury status, even outright lying about it.

However, I don’t see how or why that would have been relevant in this particular situation. For his career, Woods has withdrawn five times in 278 starts and while three of those have occurred in the past three seasons, it’s not as if a pattern has developed. If he was making a habit of withdrawing simply when he wasn’t in contention, there were plenty of other opportunities during that timeframe when he was faring much worse than he was at Doral two weeks ago.

On Monday at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Woods showed no signs of the Achilles strain, posting six birdies while pairing with Justin Rose to shoot a better-ball score of 9-under for Team Albany. After the round, he addressed concerns about the injury and why he chose to withdraw from his last event.

“There are times when I played through some things that I probably shouldn’t have,” he admitted. “That’s cost me a little bit. I’ve been on the sideline for months at a time because of it. For the first time, I did the right thing – and hence, I’m back in a week versus I could have been out for a lot longer.”

Which sort of answers the pressing question on inquiring minds: Why tee it up at all this week and risk injuring himself prior to the upcoming Masters?

The query is especially significant in regard to the Tavistock Cup, an exhibition between two dozen professionals representing four different private clubs, but also applies to this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, in which Woods will compete beginning on Thursday.

The easiest explanation – and the one Tiger himself is sticking with – is that once his doctor gave him a clean bill of health, sitting at home didn’t seem like much of a viable option. He did, however, maintain that his pursuit of a fifth green jacket is still of utmost priority.

“I’ve played through not just pain, but injury,” he said. “I’ve also set myself back quite a bit. I didn’t want to set myself back anymore. That’s what happened last year – I missed two major championships because of it. So I just wanted to be ready for Augusta.”

Chances are, whichever theory you believed in regard to Woods’ injury, that idea was buoyed by Monday’s activity. Either he appeared perfectly healthy because you think he was never hurt in the first place or because you think he did the proper thing in receiving early treatment and getting it diagnosed rather than continue playing.

Whatever the case, for now it seems he is fully healthy in advance of the year’s first major championship. No ambulances necessary and nothing falling off him.