Remember when it appeared as if there wasn’t an uncertain cell in Tiger Woods’ body?
Remember when he seemed to have the market cornered on confidence in golf?
Remember that piercing look, his impenetrable focus, the certainty of gesture in every movement?
For a champion who seemed never to have been introduced to doubt, Woods’ brain must feel like the Indianapolis 500 now with all the uncertainties racing around his cerebral cortex.
Doubt is golf’s great demon.
And Tuesday we learned that Woods has more of those goblins to contend with in his continuing struggle to find his winning form.
News that injuries to Woods’ left knee and left Achilles will keep him out of the Wells Fargo Championship next week adds to the uncertainty in his comeback. Word that it is a “minor sprain” to his knee’s medial collateral ligament and “mild strain” to his Achilles tendon is encouraging, but it is a setback. Word that he hurt himself at the Masters crouching to hit that shot from the pine straw at the 17th hole in the third round adds more layers of doubt to his comeback.
Will he be ready for The Players Championship in two weeks? Will he be at his best for U.S. Open at Congressional in seven weeks?
Maybe this is a minor setback, or maybe it’s a sign there are going to be more problems in that troublesome knee, the same knee that’s already endured four surgeries.
Either way, “maybe” is not a good word in Woods’ head right now.
Wondering how his knee and Achilles will hold up in the long practice sessions he needs to keep honing his new swing, wondering how they’ll hold up in a long-term bid to break Jack Nicklaus’ record, that state of mind is a petri dish for breeding cells of uncertainty.
We’ve seen Woods overcome injury to win in breathtaking fashion, in his hobbling on practically one leg to win the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines three years ago.
We’ve seen Woods achieve so many feats we couldn’t have fathomed, and that’s why it’s difficult to discount his eventual return to No. 1 and ultimate triumph over Nicklaus.
But this is more daunting. Now there’s physical and emotional injury to overcome.
The work beating all those demon doubts that came crashing into his life with the revelation of his marital woes has been more difficult than anyone imagined. You’ve seen that in his body language the last year-and-a-half. He looks like a different man, moves like a different man. Spiritually, you wonder if he’s been limping since he crashed into that fire hydrant. Now, he’s actually limping.
Woods has something special deep within him. He couldn’t have won those 14 majors without it. He couldn’t have won the U.S. Open by 15 shots, the Masters by 12, the British Open by eight and won four consecutive majors without it.
That run he made on Sunday of the Masters, you could see the greatness fighting to burst through all the demon doubts.
But you could see the doubts, too, you could see them in the missed short putts on the back nine.
Woods seems determined to slay every uncertain cell in his body, but the battle seems more daunting with a new wave of demons in the fight.
Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell