Tiger Woods Will Still Catch Jack Nicklaus, but Shouldn't Play the Rest of 2011

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIJune 29, 2011

Tiger Woods continues to struggle with injuries to his left knee and should let them heal for the rest of 2011
Tiger Woods continues to struggle with injuries to his left knee and should let them heal for the rest of 2011Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Fourteen-time major champion Tiger Woods announced Tuesday at his AT&T National press conference that he will not return to action on the PGA Tour until he is "100 percent."

Woods has been suffering from knee and Achilles injuries for much of 2011, and is apparently trying to reestablish his intimidation factor with his new beard (or he just ran out of free Gillette razors).

"Usually, I set a timetable for when I want to come back and play when I've had injuries before," Woods said. "This one is different."

The last time Tiger played in a PGA Tour event was at The Players Championship in May, but was forced to withdraw due to his injuries and a horrendous 42 on the front nine. In case you've missed Tiger's dominance for the past decade, that's an avalanche of strokes for the former world No. 1.

"I'm going to learn my lesson from what I did at The Players and apply it this time and come back when I'm 100 percent," Woods said. "I don't know when that's going to be. That's kind of the frustrating thing about it right now is I don't know."

It appears Woods has finally begun to take his injuries seriously and realizes his career may be cut much shorter than he would like if he does not rest. In the past, Woods has played through knee and leg injuries. Remember 2008, when Tiger won the U.S. Open on a broken leg and torn ACL?

"I've played in pain before and I've played injured, and I've played through it, and I've been very successful at it," Woods said. "There has been a number of years I've been hurt more than people could possibly understand, and I've played and I've won...But I hurt myself again. It's time to actually have a different approach."

Woods has not ruled out the possibility of playing the The Open Championship, which begins July 14 at Royal St. George's, but will not go overseas unless he feels he can win.

"I wouldn't go over there just to show up," Woods said. "I'd go over there to win the golf tournament, so I need to obviously get my body ready so I can practice, and eventually play."

In my opinion, Tiger needs to shut himself down for the rest of the season and follow the same routine he did back in 2009 when he was recovering from knee surgery. Tiger may not have won a major when he returned to action on the PGA Tour in 2009, but he did manage to win seven tournaments and the FedEx Cup.

Woods won the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational, upending Sean O'Hair in a final-round comeback despite only playing in one other tournament before that. Tiger went on to finish in a tie for sixth at both The Masters and the U.S. Open.

Tiger even led the PGA Championship after the first three rounds, but fired a final round 75 to finish in second place behind Y.E. Yang. It was the first time in Woods' illustrious career that he lost a tournament when leading or co-leading after 54 holes.

Woods also won the AT&T National, Memorial, Buick Open, WGC Bridgestone Invitational, BMW Championship and the JBWere Masters tournament in Australia. Additionally, Tiger went 5-0 in his Presidents Cup matches.

So Woods has had no problem coming back from a more severe knee injury than this one, and he has played extremely well. I think enough time has passed for his mental game to finally be back as well.

Tiger has plenty of time to catch Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships. Jack won three majors after the age of 40, and Woods does not turn 36 until December 30 of this year. Assuming Woods plays until he is at least 45 years old, that gives him 40 more major tournaments to possibly play in over the next ten years.

"[Jack] won when he was 46, right?" Woods said. "I've still got some time. I feel pretty confident of what my future holds and very excited about it. 

There's no reason for Tiger not to be excited about his future, considering his success on some of the courses at which the four major championships will be held over the next decade.

Woods has won four times at Augusta National, which is where The Masters is held every year. The U.S. Open will be held at Pinehurst Resort (No. 2 Course) in 2014, Oakmont Country Club in 2016 and Pebble Beach in 2019. Tiger won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000 and has finished no worse then fourth in U.S. Opens at any of those courses.

The future sites of The Open Championship are even better suited for Woods to win. The 2014 Open will be held at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, where Woods won in 2006. The following year, the tournament will return to The Old Course at St. Andrews, where Woods won in 2000 and 2005.

Tiger also won a PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in 2000, which is where the major will be held in 2014. Woods will also get another crack at Baltusrol Golf Club in the 2016 PGA Championship, where he finished in a tie for fourth in 2005.

Quail Hollow Golf Club will host the PGA Championship in 2017. Woods won the Wachovia Championship there in 2007.

So, Woods is not short on time or opportunities to win at least five more major championships. Even with the great number of young players coming up, there has been no one person who has stepped up to take control of the PGA Tour in Woods' absence.

Rory McIlroy has emerged as likely the best young player on the tour, but he has already proven to be more human then Tiger, firing rounds of 80 after leading both The Open Championship and The Masters.

McIlroy has yet to prove he can win a major with someone breathing down his neck, which Tiger will no doubt be able to do when he comes back fully healthy.

Woods will likely never regain the aura of invincibility and dominance he had at the height of his career in the early 2000's, but he still has more talent than just about every golfer on the PGA Tour. I still expect to see Tiger break Nicklaus' record of 18 majors before he decides to put his clubs in storage for good.

Check out my new blog, Dirlam’s Dirty Dugout Sports Blog, which features this story along with other articles and video reports on the major sports. You can also follow my blog on Twitter, @DirtyDugoutBlog, which will provide you with the latest updates about what will be posted on the blog!


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