It wasn’t that long ago that Tiger Woods strode over the golf courses of the world like a giant colossus, striking fear into the hearts of opponents so it was with some astonishment that sports analysts on ESPN today, Wednesday, December 2, speculated the winner of 14 grand slams was contemplating his imminent retirement. Sports commentators Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser nterpreted comments made by Woods at a press conference as meaning the former No. 1 player in the world may have already holed his last putt on their show Pardon The Interruption.
The quote “anymore wins in the future would just be gravy” was one of the phrases that caught the well-known sports scribes attention. Wilbon said, “I’ve always thought Tiger was the most optimistic superstar I’ve ever covered. He’ll usually say something like ‘my game’s almost there’ if he’s having problems. But I’ve never heard him say anything like this before.”
Woods made the startling comments during a press conference yesterday, Tuesday, December 1, before hosting his Heroes Challenge Golf Tournament at Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas. Because of recent back surgery and knee ligament problems he won’t be able to compete in his own tournament this week. Instead current number one Jordan Spieth will lead 13 other golfers when they tee off Thursday morning in the tournament which the Under Armour star won in 2014.
Woods said glumly, “I have nothing to look forward to. Nothing I can build toward.”
The 39 year old multiple champion held the No. 1 world ranking for an incredible 683 consecutive weeks when he was at the top of his game. Woods further said, “I can’t even bend down to pick up a golf ball because of my back right now.”
The last majors he’s won was the U.S. Open in 2008. The most recent significant tournament he won was the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational. Woods comments fueled immediate speculation yesterday and today he might sit out the entire 2016 season or possibly retire.
A series of injuries and possibly a change in instructors may have contributed to the decline in his results in recent years. Although he is 39, players have won tournaments and even grand slam championships later in life than his age. Sam Snead and Vijay Singh each won majors in their 40s so there is precedent players can still be successful at that age.
Woods even referred to the retirement of NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant who is playing his last season after a 20 year career. Bryant announced he was definitely retiring at the end of this year, telling Robin Roberts he wasn’t going to change his mind. He said one morning he made the decision it was time to quit the game he loves. He said always before when he’d considered the possibility of hanging up his Los Angeles Lakers jersey he decided he had more time to play.
While Woods did not make a definitive statement like Bryant that he is retiring, he certainly left the door open to that possibility in the minds of sportswriter and analysts around the country with his comments Tuesday. So far Woods has been walking, but has not yet started on his rehab following the most recent back surgery. He has skidded to No. 400 in the world during his slump.
Spieth started off the tournament’s action today Thursday with a hole in one early in the first round. Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson are among the star-studded lineup with whom Spieth is competing today on the course which has been described as “desert” or “St. Andrews crossed with Phoenix”, according to CBS Sports.
The two biggest questions looming over this exotic vacation resort today are whether Spieth can win the tourney clad in his Under Armour uniform and if Tiger can recover from his surgery sufficiently to ever want to strike a golf ball again on the PGA Tour. One thing in Tiger’s favor is that golf is an individual sport and he doesn’t have to ever retire fully if he doesn’t want to. He’s in a better position than a Peyton Manning who plays for a team like the Denver Broncos and has to answer to a coach and a general manager as to the longevity of his career.