Anyone who watched THE PLAYERS last weekend knows that the biggest story line wasn't K.J. Choi's playoff victory over David Toms. It wasn't Tom's impressive 18th that forced the playoff. It wasn't the spectacular accomplishments or spectacular failures on the fabled 17th.
Rather, the biggest story of the weekend was Tiger Woods withdrawing after just nine holes and 42 strokes.
The official listed reason for withdrawal was “multiple leg injuries,” as if someone had gone after his knees and shins with a baseball bat.
After briefly talking to the press and saying he was having trouble walking, Tiger nimbly scaled a flight of stairs—two steps at a time, by the way—hopped into his white Mercedes, racing off to leave a wondering media and golf public.
Even after the round finished, the questions for his fellow competitors that day were all about Tiger withdrawing from the tournament. Even the two players he was matched with on Thursday—Matt Kuchar and Martin Kaymer—were asked by the media not about their rounds, but if there was a difference in the crowd after Tiger left the course.
Give me a freaking break!
Is Tiger Woods really so important to the world of golf that his absence is more important than Choi's impressive and emotional victory? Is it so important that a week later, it's still the most important story in the golfing world?
There are many golf fans around the world who are sick and tired of seeing stories about Tiger Woods' problems get better press than other golfers' successes, as if the golfing media has so much less respect for “the field” than they do for Tiger.
It's clear that Tiger had us all fooled from the moment he stepped onto a golf course through 2009. He was this great athlete, the new generation of golf talent, and most importantly, a great role model for young an old alike.
Now, it's apparent that Tiger is out only for Tiger. When it turns out he's just like every other pro athlete that has disappointed fans with his off-the-field/court/course antics, the world acts as if it is somehow shocked.
But what is perhaps most shocking—yet telling—is Tiger's consistency for being disingenuous.
After the media circus surrounding his personal life erupted in early 2010, Tiger announced that he was going to take an “extended leave” from competitive golf. That was probably a good idea. After all, it was clear his marriage was on the brink, the Tiger Woods brand was tarnished, and he probably had a lot of personal work he needed to do.
So how long was this “extended leave?”
Three whole tournaments. After all, Tiger Woods is all about Tiger Woods. If he ever wants to catch Jack Nicklaus, Tiger has to play in every major championship he can, and that included the 2010 Masters.
The reports say that Tiger Woods is suffering from a Achilles injury. For the average person, it would take eight weeks of nothing but rest to recuperate from such an injury. Athletes with access to state-of-the-art athletic training facilities could probably cut that to five or six weeks.
The US Open is in four weeks.
It's possible Tiger can be ready in time, but to do so means one of two things. First, he wasn't that hurt (maybe the 42 was more painful than the leg?). Secondly, he really is hurt, but can't bring himself to miss a major.
Either way, Tiger Woods will be facing the best golfers in the world in what is generally accepted to be the toughest test in professional golf: The US Open. His fellow competitors won't be suffering from injuries, either.
If Tiger Woods really wants to save his golf game, and help his image, he'll listen to his doctors by resting until completely healed, meaning he'll miss the 2011 US Open.
Either way, Tiger's chances of beating Nicklaus on the golf course are dwindling. The longer the injury nags, the less and less likely Tiger is to ever catch Jack.
As for his image game, Jack locked up that contest in November, 2009.With Tiger's withdrawal last week, he'll likely fall from the world's top ten, but that's not what hurts his claim to "best ever." Golf is a game of honesty and gentlemanly conduct, as embodied in the R&A's Rules of the Game. In today's world where honesty and etiquette are sorely lacking, golf gives us refuge. Tiger's self-serving conduct and the resulting media circuses take away not only from his legacy, but from the game as a whole.