Tiger Woods had back surgery Wednesday, hoping to alleviate pain that has plagued him in recent years. It was Woods’ fourth such procedure since March 2014.
With his 2017 season over, will Woods, 41, ever compete at an elite level again?
“No, I would say the answer to that is no,” FOX Sports1 golf analyst Robert Lusetich said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “Look, we all want to believe. We want to believe in the Easter Bunny and we want to believe in Santa Claus and we want to believe in a lot of magical things. I was lucky enough to be in the front row when Tiger was Tiger, and it took my breath away. I say this not lightly: if you’re lucky in a lifetime, you see one or two talents that are not just once-in-a-generation, but we’re talking maybe once-in-a-century. That’s the level of talent that Tiger Woods was at, but he hasn’t been there for a long time – a very, very long time. In fact, I’m going to make the case that he hasn’t been there, really, since he backed up that Escalade into a fire hydrant on Thanksgiving in 2009.”
Woods, who admitted to infidelity, took a leave of absence from golf shortly thereafter to focus on his marriage. In the end, though, he and his then-wife, Elin Nordegren, divorced.
Woods hasn’t won a major since.
“The damage done to Tiger Woods psychologically – the scarring, the mental scarring – took place exactly at that time and in the aftermath of that scandal,” said Lusetich, the author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger’s Most Tumultuous Season. “And then obviously when he tried to get back, his body really didn’t cooperate. He changed swings. He did lots of different things. He had a couple of runs where I thought, ‘Maybe.’ But the reality was every time he got into the crunch – even in 2013, when he won five times (and was) player of the year – every time he got into the hot seat at a major he couldn’t deliver, and that was the telltale sign that he was never going to be back. Something was missing from Tiger Woods, and sadly, now we’re at the point where physically, even if he wanted to, I don’t see him making it.”
Thus, Woods will likely finish his career with 14 major championships – four behind Jack Nicklaus’ 18. Based on that alone, is Woods not the greatest golfer of all time?
“Look, I’ve been saying this for a long time: You cannot ever deny that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest champion in the history of golf. The numbers are there,” Lusetich said. “But no one has dominated golf in the way Tiger Woods did. The guy was a freak show for a long, long time, and I hope that people don’t forget. It’s easy to sort of look at him now and say he’s Willie Mays dropping fly balls in center field, and maybe there’s an element of truth to that. But we should never, ever forget what he was – and what he was at his peak was something that he will never see in our lives again.”