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Time No Longer on Tiger's Side

Mar 03, 2014 -- 11:09am

I’m finally truly concerned about Tiger Woods.

One of two things is going on with Tiger and neither is good. Either his 38-year-old body is breaking down after more than 30 years of competition and long hours of practicing or he has a low threshold for pain.

Every athlete in every physical sport has aches and pains. Every reasonably active person starts experiencing aches and pains once they reach their late 30s. Its Mother Nature’s way of making sure we know we’re not kids any more.

Tiger withdrew after 13 holes of the final round in the Honda Classic, citing his reoccurring back problem. No sport is tougher on the back than golf. He was 5 over for the day and miles back of the leaders when he called it a day, less than 24 hours after shooting a third-round 65. Tiger has withdrawn from several tournaments in recent years because of a variety of injuries, but back problems top the list and send up the brightest of red flags.

Is the problem Tiger’s back won’t allow him to make his normal swing or is it his “fear” of pain? Only Tiger knows. Just to be clear, having a low threshold of pain isn’t a criticism just as having a high threshold isn’t a testament to one’s toughness. It really isn’t something anyone can control. It simply is what it is.

Like everything else in Tiger’s golfing life, his back/pain problems are blown out of proportion compared to other golfers because his every swing is captured by the TV cameras. We see every time he winces; every time he stretches to ease the pain. We also see when he unleashes one of his majestic swings.

It must frustrate Tiger as much as it confuses fans that in spite of his physical problems he continues to show his golf greatness. The man did win five tournaments and was the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2013. But there was a time when his “bad” golf was better than most players’ best days. Now the bad Tiger is, by Tour standards, simply bad.  

I’m certainly not making light of Tiger and his possible back issues. I’ve lived with severe back pain for more than 15 years. I’ve undergone three spinal surgeries (not to mention two knee replacements). It is because of my own experience that I know Tiger is never going to be totally pain free swinging a golf club, and that’s doubly true if he has major back issues.

Whichever is true in Tiger’s case isn’t the real issue. The real issue is if Tiger can’t consistently perform at the top of his game because injury or nagging pain then he’ll never be close to the Tiger we once knew.

And that means he’ll never top Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major championships.

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