News & Opinion

Plenty of questions, few answers with Woods

Tiger Woods finally has spoken about his past, his present and an uncertain future.

In a 1,572-word blog post, Woods emerged as uncharacteristically chatty but strategic in his timing (http://bit.ly/2y0X8MK).

This week’s Presidents Cup will be the first time in months that Woods, an assistant captain for the U.S. team that will play the Internationals, will face the media.

With so many questions about his health, game, DUI arrest and drug dependency sure to greet Woods in New Jersey, any good media consultant would have told him to get in front of the issue before this week.

For Woods, who has lacked competent media guidance in the past, his post proved enlightening but also created more questions than it answered. 

Woods opened his soliloquy more as a politician than an athlete, extending his sympathy and concern for those affected by the recent natural disasters in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico. 

He shared some news: he feels relatively pain free after his fourth back surgery, in April, when he underwent an anterior lumbar interbody fusion, and finally is sleeping better. If true, it would be something that Woods hasn’t been able to say for most of his two-decade professional career.

Woods has struggled with back and knee injuries that likely led to a drug dependency that he acknowledged earlier this year after he was found asleep in his damaged Mercedes-Benz on May 29 on the side of a road in Jupiter, Fla., with the engine running. He was unable to speak coherently to police officers. He reportedly agreed to plead guilty to reckless driving and will enter a first-offender program (“Woods needs help, and his life might depend on it,” May 31, http://bit.ly/2rFStwz).

As long as Woods has been in the public eye, he has conceded that he has struggled with sleep and needed medication to rest properly. If Woods is able to sleep, it is a big step toward normalcy.

Woods also confirmed that he is working out, chipping and putting and is hitting shots of up to 60 yards. An upcoming six-month examination by his surgeon will determine Woods’ next steps. 

Oddly, Woods said he still is trying to restore muscle tone and that he is nowhere near golf shape yet. The shocker was Woods’ timeline for a return.

“Playing wise, I’m not looking ahead yet because I don’t know what kind of swing I’m going to use,” Woods said. “I just don’t know what my body is going to allow me to do. Until I do, I’m going to listen to my doctors and continue to take it slowly.”

Reading between the lines, it seems that Woods likely will not play in the 2017-18 PGA Tour season. A return at any time in the next year would be questionable. Woods, who will turn 42 in December, is nearing the beginning of a long journey toward a comeback that might never happen.

Fans of Woods, whose 79 victories include 14 major championships, always have believed that he would return. Most Tour players predictably say they hope he comes back. Because of Woods, purses on the PGA Tour have ballooned since his 1996 professional debut, to a record $363 million for next season. His colleagues have been deferential, if not reverent, of Woods and his possible return.

Woods spent much of the rest of his post saluting and thanking others, from U.S. captain Juli Inkster for winning the Solheim Cup to quarterback Derek Carr, of Woods’ beloved Oakland Raiders, for a 2-0 start in the NFL.

Woods’ guidance about turning professional for fellow Stanford alumni Maverick McNealy and David Boote proved to be illuminating.

“The first year is the most difficult because you are at a tremendous disadvantage unless they go to a new golf course,” Woods said. “If not, you’re behind the eight ball learning the course. Not only have most of the guys seen it, they’ve seen it under different conditions, which is a tremendous help. They also know where to eat and stay.”

For Woods, if he ever returns to competitive golf, meals and accommodations will be the least of his concerns. His biggest obstacles will be the likes of twentysomething stars Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama, among others, on a deep and talented next-generation PGA Tour.

Woods answered some questions with his blog post, but many more remain and are not likely to be resolved soon. Yet, one thing is for sure: Woods attracts more attention than any other golfer, even when he’s not competing.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli