'Vulnerable' WD reveals harsh reality for Tiger


Tiger Woods didn’t withdraw from this week’s Safeway Open because his body needs more time to recover.

He said he withdrew because his game is “vulnerable.”

As reasons for WDs go, that’s a stunner from Woods, and maybe the first time he has ever used the word to describe himself.

Has anyone ever given “vulnerable” as a reason for a WD from a PGA Tour event before?

It’s revealing on more than one level.

Woods said he doesn’t feel “ready” to play, and he could have left it at that, but he added “vulnerable,” and there’s gravitas to that word that speaks volumes about where Woods’ head and heart are in his attempt to come back from injury.

Yes, this is a classic case of the kind of hyper-analysis that drives Woods crazy, but this isn’t criticism.

There’s a certain resignation to the word “vulnerable” that we still don’t expect from Woods, even though he is becoming so much more candid than he has ever been. It’s refreshing, this less guarded Tiger, but while this candor makes him more human, more likeable, more real, it also makes him seem less determined, less resolute.

That’s no indictment of Tiger, just acknowledgment of the harsh reality he’s dealing with.

For more than a year now, Woods has been allowing us to hear him come to grips with that reality.

His using the word “vulnerable” is yet another sign that his struggle with uncertainty is growing. Why commit to the tournament Friday if there was any doubt?

Woods WD is really bad form, hurting a tournament and all the fans invested in the excitement he created committing, but it’s also a revelation as to how deep his doubts really go. To WD this late knowing the backlash it creates against him says a lot about how his psyche is more tender than his back now.  

Uncertainty is the only foe Woods has battled the last 14 months, since he last teed it up at the Wyndham Championship. He has given us rare access to the demon doubt haunting him during his time away, since the first of his three back surgeries over the last 20 months.

Late last year, at the Hero World Challenge, Woods said anything he manages to achieve beyond his 14 major championship victories and 79 PGA Tour titles “will be gravy,” adding, “If that’s all it entails then I’ve had a pretty good run.”

Around the same time, when he was asked if his career might already be complete, Woods told Time Magazine he didn’t want it to be, but “I’ve reconciled myself to it.”

We’ve seen Woods in a light we’ve never seen him the last 20 months. We’ve listened to him tell us his breakup with Lindsey Vonn was “brutal.” We’ve seen photos of him appearing at career day in his daughter Sam’s third-grade classroom. We watched him hit three balls in the water at Congressional during the Quicken Loans National media day. And we saw him walking Ryder Cup fairways just last week, opening up and sharing his wisdom with his “pod” at Hazeltine, where we also saw him comically kicked out of a players’ only team photograph there.

We’ve been seeing a guy we shouldn’t be surprised to hear feels “vulnerable” about his game.

While there was disappointment in Woods’ withdrawal from Safeway on Monday, we should probably “reconcile” ourselves to the fact that more disappointment is coming. While Woods may well overcome those challenges, we should all understand anything he achieves beyond today is “gravy.” We’re all “vulnerable” if we’re expecting more.