Tiger Woods’ British Open started with a super swing: A low punch shot down the Outdated Course’s forgiving first fairway, leaving simply 108 yards to the outlet. It ought to have been a routine par, perhaps even a birdie if he pulled off an aggressive shot.
However when he arrived on the ball, Woods found that he caught a horrible break. His drive landed proper in the midst of a dirt-filled divot, that means he could not predict how the ball would react off his membership face. It turned out to be the worst-case state of affairs: Woods chunked the shot, which ended up within the Swilcan Burn guarding the entrance of the inexperienced. After a one-stroke penalty, a chip after which a missed 7-foot putt, Woods walked off the primary gap with a double bogey.
Unfortunate? Sura. And dangerous omen? Little question. However that is Tiger Woods we’re speaking about, a three-time British Open winner together with two of them at St. Andrews. Even nicely previous his prime, with out many event reps as he recovers from a automotive accident 16 months in the past that just about broken his proper leg to the purpose of amputation, that is presupposed to be one of many few main championship programs the place he can not less than dangle round on the leaderboard for a short while.
That is it what Woods did at Augusta Nationwide, stealing the highlight on Day 1 with a 71 that had him within the top-10 in a single day.
However that was then, and that is now. And the extra Woods performs, the extra we now have to ask: Is that this actually price it?
For all the thrill surrounding Woods when he returned to the Masters this yr, his spherical of 78 Thursday was a harsh reminder of what his golf profession actually is at this level. On a course that was certainly not simple, however actually not hellacious, Woods beat simply seven gamers within the discipline. Two of them have been 50-year-old David Duval and 62-year-old Mark Calcavecchia, who solely received into the sector as previous champions.
Even in any case he has been by means of, it is troublesome to conceive of a 46-year-old Woods as a ceremonial participant in main championships the best way Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have been of their late 50s.
Though the Masters win in 2019 was a shock, Woods had been enjoying good golf for some time earlier than that event and up till the COVID-19 pandemic. Have been it not for the automotive accident, he would possibly nicely have had possibilities so as to add a sixteenth main. If his leg one way or the other permits him to apply and get again on tour like an actual skilled, perhaps he can once more. He is nonetheless received a number of years, in any case, till he is as outdated as Phil Mickelson was final spring when he gained the PGA Championship.
However the bodily battle Woods is placing himself by means of now, solely to play mediocre golf, does not appear sustainable over the lengthy haul.
This is not about tarnishing any legacies. Woods may end final in each event he enters from now till the top of time, and it will not change the truth that for 10-plus years, he performed the sport of golf higher than any human who ever lived.
If Woods simply desires to play when he can and benefit from the embrace of the followers and his friends with out caring about outcomes, that is completely high-quality. Nevertheless it additionally does not appear to be one thing one of the vital maniacally aggressive and targeted athletes we have ever seen would need the twilight of his profession to seem like.
It could be one factor if Woods may simply present up and provides a consultant effort, however realistically that is not going to occur in his present situation. Bodily, it is apparent simply by the sheer dimension of his proper leg that he lacks energy and stability. There are occasions when it is painful to look at him stroll.
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And the truth for Woods is that after the wonderful 71 he managed on the primary day at Augusta, his scores have been what you’d count on from somebody who’s a shell of himself bodily and does not play different tournaments: 74, 78, 78 on the Masters; 74, 69, 79 earlier than withdrawing on the PGA Championship and his 78 at St. Andrews.
If the purpose for Woods enjoying three of the 4 majors this yr was merely to show that he may, or one way or the other to have another go earlier than saying goodbye to the aggressive a part of his profession, think about it mission achieved.
However is that this constructing to one thing? Perhaps that is what Woods needed to seek out out this yr, to see how far-off he’s from really competing. But when that is the case, displaying up on a number of the world’s hardest programs with none warm-up tournaments did not do him any favors.
That is what makes Thursday’s spherical so disheartening. If something, these eight rounds he is performed within the majors underscore that he is not shut in any respect proper now to doing one thing important within the majors. It could take extra time, effort and luck than Woods has left.
However golf is a humorous sport. We have seen outdated gamers win massive tournaments with no trace it was coming, and Woods can nonetheless strike a golf ball with the perfect of them. It is the remainder of it — the quick recreation, the endurance over 72 holes and the power to grind by means of robust stretches the best way he used to that appears to be in his rear-view mirror.
Hopefully, if Woods has the desire to maintain going, there’s extra to this story than what we have seen in 2022. However after watching how troublesome it’s bodily for him to compete, all of us must get snug with the concept that it could finish at any time, and that simply seeing him out on the course goes to should be a reward unto itself.
Whether or not it is sufficient for Woods, although, is one thing solely he’ll have the ability to reply.
Observe USA TODAY Sports activities’ Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken.
This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Tiger Woods is the one one who can say whether or not a comeback is definitely worth the ache