Embattling the Ultimate Mystery


Because of the vagaries of your generic freefall, there is normally no way to know when one has reached the apex of a tumble. But on Wednesday Tiger Woods arrived, at least by proxy, at rock bottom.

In an interview on Sport Radio 790 The Zone in Atlanta, John Daly revealed he and the game’s embattled superstar had a heart-to-heart at last year’s PGA Championship covering everything from Woods’ broken marriage to his tattered public image.

“It made me relieved what Tiger was going through. Do I blame Tiger for what he did? Yes. Did he have a reason? Yes,” Daly told the “Mayhem in the A.M.” show. “He said, ‘I thought about talking to the media right after it all happened. Telling the truth and what was going on. I really did. But I was told not to.’ I don’t blame him for listening to bad advice that he totally got over this whole situation.”

When JD is spinning apologies and offering marital advice you know life has thrown you a three-club wind and a 400-yard forced carry.

That Daly’s revelations came a day after Woods announced he would miss next week’s Wells Fargo Championship to nurse a left knee and Achilles injury only adds to the strange days that have befallen the one-time Teflon kid.

Tiger Woods
Woods has two top-10s this year, including his T-4 at the Masters. (Getty Images)
Flash back 35 months, to a picture perfect San Diego Monday and Woods’ signature one-legged victory at the U.S. Open. Schlepping onto a red-eye bound for the East Coast that night the worry was how quickly Woods would cover the Grand Slam ground between he and Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major victories.

Two and half years removed from that moment and it’s impossible not to contemplate the simple reality that Woods may now never reach the Golden Bear’s gold-standard benchmark. Woods has gone from aspiring to match Nicklaus’ Grand Slam feat to aspiring to catch “Luke Donald disease.”

Tuesday’s move to the 15-day DL, which by most accounts is not retroactive, only serves to further cloud the waters made murky by the events of the last 17 months. Woods’ medical history is starting to feel like an episode of “House.” This is the fifth time he has had his left knee medically poked and prodded, dating back to 1994 when he had a benign tumor removed to the June 2008 surgery to repair his torn ACL in the days following Torrey Pines.

Woods’ left knee is, by any measure, damaged goods. And the Achilles sprain, although not new to the conversation, is even more concerning.

“The Achilles is a severe injury because your entire body is now out of alignment,” said Randy Myers, the director of fitness at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort who works with numerous Tour players. “With the knee injury he knows what to do, he knows what it takes. But the Achilles can very easily be re-injured.”

Tour trainers refer to them as “chain” injuries that migrate from joint to joint to compensate for other ailments. In Woods’ case the left-knee ailment that he says has dogged him almost his entire career may have caused the Achilles ailment.

Woods was hampered by an ailing Achilles for much of 2009, an injury that severely limited his ability to prepare which, after a clutch short game and all-world intensity, may have been his greatest asset.

“Last year I didn't practice as much because I couldn't. The Achilles wouldn't allow me to,” Woods said during last year’s Players Championship.

The only up side to Woods’ current predicament is that he officially has a doctor’s note to miss The Players Championship, where he has not won in a decade and his recent history reads like a doctor’s eye chart (WD, eighth, T-37, T-22, T-53).

Of course that also means fewer “reps” before the U.S. Open. If history holds, he would only play the Memorial before arriving at Congressional in June, and if that’s the case he may not be letting on to how serious his current injuries are.

According to Myers and other trainers, Woods’ reported ailments would require a two- to three-week rehabilitation. If he does skip The Players, that would be a seven-week window between the Masters, where he injured himself during the third round, and what many anticipate will be his next start at Muirfield Village.

“Have you ever considered that (Woods) is not entirely honest with you?” one veteran player asked your scribe earlier this year. Given the current explanations it’s an impossible question to ignore.

On Friday during last year’s Players Championship a writer asked Woods how his knee was feeling. “Knee’s good,” he responded. The scribe pressed asking, “Any issues at all?” Woods’ answered: “No, zero. Absolutely 100 percent (healthy).”

Two days later he withdrew from the final round of the “fifth major” after just seven holes with a previously undisclosed neck ailment saying, “I've been playing with a bad neck for quite a while.”

For Woods privacy is much more than a clever name for a yacht, it’s a way of life. And regardless of his status as the game’s alpha male for more than a decade there are questions he is certainly entitled to sidestep. His health, however, should not be a national secret if, for no other reason, as a tool to temper expectations.

If he has been unable to practice and prepare as he normally would because his 35-year-old body is starting to show its age, it would be an explanation – not an excuse – for his relatively substandard play of late.

“(Wells Fargo Championship) is an outstanding event, but I must follow doctors’ orders to get better,” Woods said in his statement on Tuesday.

Simple and straightforward, no matter how concerning.

In the end, it may not be scandal or a field that seems to have rapidly closed the gap that keeps Woods from Nicklaus’ benchmark. It could be a body that simply won’t cooperate.

On Wednesday Daly stepped to Woods’ defense, a personal low by any measure for the former world No. 1. Whether Woods has hit rock bottom physically remains a mystery. A mystery that will ultimately decide whether he continues his assault on Nicklaus’ Grand Slam record.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard