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|Will Tiger Woods ever be the same dominant player after the knee operation? (Courtesy of the USGA)|
Tim Finchem and the fellas over at Ponte Vedra keep telling us the PGA Tour is about more than just Tiger Woods, and now they'll get a chance to prove it.
I don't think they ever believed it, and I don't think anybody else believed they believed it. Furthermore, I don't think Finchem and the suits ever expected us to believe it. It's just something they have to say.
What's he going to say? "Without Tiger, we're nothing?"
They're not exactly nothing. There are obviously some world-class, supremely talented players on the tour. The problem is, with a handful of exceptions, they came right off the pro golf assembly line. There is a sameness to the PGA Tour. It lacks the colorful characters other, more popular sports have.
Woods, arguably the most famous athlete in the world, drew us in because we knew we were living through a special era, which may not be seen again for a long time.
Now that he will miss the rest of the year and probably part of next with major knee surgery, golf will resume its lowly position in the sports pantheon. Golf has only captured the public imagination when superstars like Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer made dramatic headlines.
The ratings for this U.S. Open were the third-highest in history, behind Woods' other Open victories in 2000 and 2002.
What's that sound? It sounds like those ratings and sponsorships falling off the table.
There are a couple of troublesome aspects to the announcement of Wood's knee problem, which is much more serious than anyone outside the Woods world knew.
First of all, he almost certainly should not have been playing in the U.S. Open. His coach, Hank Haney, told reporters he should have been on crutches last week.
Woods' incredible drive and ambition may have led to his undoing and seriously damaged his chances of ever catching Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. A torn anterior cruciate ligament, the mother of all knee injuries, usually takes six to eight months to heal. The time missed will obviously hurt his pursuit, since he'll miss at least two majors, the PGA Championship and the British Open, not to mention the Ryder Cup Matches.
And who's to say he'll ever be the same dominant player he's been for the last decade? The knee is a funny thing, a very fragile and unpredictable hinge that has felled many a great athlete. It doesn't respond to sheer will.
His coaches have been trying to tinker with his swing in an effort to reduce the amount of torque he puts on the left knee, which has already undergone two lesser procedures. He will almost certainly have to change it now. Also, it is a well-known fact that an injury like this can lead to arthritis down the road.
Woods may have killed his chances of passing Nicklaus in the record books because of sheer obstinacy.
The other part that bothers me is the secretive way Woods hid the serious problem. He's been coy with the media regarding the extent of the problem. He explained on his Web site that he was thinking of the USGA.
"I know much was made of my knee throughout the last week, and it was important to me that I disclose my position publicly at an appropriate time," Wood said in a statement on his Web site. "I wanted to be very respectful of the USGA and their incredibly hard work and make sure the focus was on the U.S. Open ..."
That sounds altruistic and all that, but you have to wonder. I always have doubts about people who try to manage the news. He would have been much better off leveling with people and letting the chips fall where they may.
Hiding the facts only leads to rampant speculation with a player of his stature.
It also leads to a credibility gap. I'm not so sure I'll ever believe what he says again, particularly when it comes to the left knee. What's he hiding this time? Golf - and the public that supports it - has made Woods a very wealthy man, and he has a certain obligation to the public to be straight with it.
There's a difference between being stoic and being unnecessarily sly. There's a sort of arrogance to it.
June 20, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
With the steadily increasing media spotlight on the Ryder Cup Matches, will the once-dignified biennial matchup between U.S. and European golfers become just like any other rowdy sporting event?
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