Tiger Woods is still in the process of recovering from back surgery and hasn't teed it up in competition since the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He won't be in the 2014 Memorial Tournament field, and according to ESPN's Bob Harig, Woods reached out to tournament host Jack Nicklaus before play began:
Tiger called Jack expressing regrets for missing Memorial. Jack didn't ask about Tiger's return: "I knew I was going to talk to you guys.''— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) May 28, 2014
Wednesday also saw Woods declare himself out of action for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 beginning on June 12. Mark Soltau of TigerWoods.com reported on the expected development and recorded what Woods had to say about missing the season's second major:
Unfortunately, I won't be there because I'm not yet physically able to play competitive golf. I'd like to convey my regrets to the USGA leadership, the volunteers and the fans that I won't be at Pinehurst. The U.S. Open is very important to me, and I know it's going to be a great week. Despite missing the first two majors, and several other important tournaments, I remain very optimistic about this year and my future.
The United States Golf Association sent its best wishes to Woods upon learning of the official announcement:
Woods must be especially disappointed that he is unable to return to the venue considering how well he has played there in the past, per Golf Channel's Jason Sobel:
Latest news on Tiger expected, but still disappointing for him. Was third at Pinehurst in '99; second in '05. Trending in right direction.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) May 28, 2014
This marks the second straight major Woods has missed, as he was unable to start at the Masters in April. ESPN Stats & Info brought up a relevant trend with regard to Woods' pursuit of Nicklaus' 18 major titles following Wednesday's news:
Tiger Woods out of U.S. Open-- he won 13 majors from ages 21 to 31, has won 1 major since— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 28, 2014
Nicklaus recently commented on Woods' injury and the active legend's pursuit of the Golden Bear's gold-standard achievement, per USA Today's Reid Cherner:
We did not do physical training like they do today. The more you see guys build themselves up, the more they seem to get injured. We played and tried to stay relaxed. Use what God gave us as a body. Even football players didn't do it when I was growing up and I don't think you saw as many injuries on the football field either. I feel bad for guys who do get injured, and I think everybody is struggling to try to be stronger, hit the ball further, do all these things. Which goes back to the golf ball. I've seen more injuries today than I've seen in a long time.
[...] Tiger is very strong mentally. Of course he's also very strong physically. I've said it many times. I still think he'll break my record. He'll be playing golf certainly at a top level for the next 10 years anyway. That gives him 40 more majors. You don't have to win that much to do that. Not at the level he wins.
Dianna Marie Russini of NBC News 4 in Washington, D.C. and ESPN's Britt McHenry provided updates the last time Woods spoke to the public, which was Monday, May 19, at Congressional Country Club:
Tiger Woods says there is no date for his return. He says he misses playing. Misses the game.— Dianna Marie Russini (@NBCdianna) May 19, 2014
"Prior to surgery I didn't feel like I'd have much more of a career." Tiger Woods says now he feels confident about longevity— Britt McHenry (@BrittMcHenry) May 19, 2014
Perhaps Woods' biggest long-term challenger in Rory McIlroy, who is coming off a win at the BMW PGA Championship, may also get back into the mix for the No. 1 ranking. Shane Bacon of Yahoo Sports alluded to the last time Woods wasn't in the U.S. Open field due to injury:
The only other U.S. Open Tiger Woods has missed because of injury happened in 2011 … and Rory McIlroy went on to win by 8.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) May 28, 2014
That breakthrough triumph for McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open came at Congressional.
But given how long Woods held the No. 1 ranking before, he figures to take it back in short order upon his latest comeback. ESPN's Rick Reilly highlighted how far Scott, or anyone after Scott, has to go to emulate Woods' dominance:
Records that may never be broken? Total weeks as world #1: Tiger Woods, 683. Next best: Greg Norman, 331. Now? Adam Scott: 2.— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) May 26, 2014
When will Tiger Woods win his next major?
It seems that Woods is almost apologetic for missing so many marquee events. Part of that may be due to the impact he has in terms of fanfare and world-ranking points. However, the 14-time major champion shouldn't feel any guilt in taking all the time he needs to fully recover. It's in the game of golf's best interest as well as his own.
Woods has fought through a multitude of injuries throughout his career, and it will be exciting to see what he can do when he does come back. The wisdom he's accumulated over the years and how vital his health is with each passing season should see Woods ready himself for further conquests in the future.
Although a specific timetable is yet to be determined, Woods should feel better about his ability to compete in the coming years when his ailing back is healed.