London - America’s Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson admitted on Monday he was deeply concerned about Tiger Woods’s prospects of being fit for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September.
‘It concerns me because it is an injury that he’s tried to correct,’ said Watson. ‘This doesn’t bode well right now.’
Even if Woods somehow declared himself fit, the worry for Watson would be that his back might go again in Scotland, as it did at Firestone on Sunday when he had to withdraw after nine holes of his final round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods was seeing a battery of specialists near his home in Jupiter, Florida on Monday to evaluate the injury and what happens next. While he did that, his caddie Joey LaCava made his way to Valhalla and mapped out the course being used for the USPGA Championship this week, which certainly earned him full marks for blind optimism.
Woods played the following week after withdrawing with a back spasm at the Honda Classic in February but was in such pain by the end he had difficulty standing over a putt. A fortnight later, he had an operation for a herniated disc that kept him out for four months.
We await to see what his next move will be on this occasion but surely under consideration is to take the rest of the year off and try to get fully fit in time for a serious tilt at the majors next season.
What was really noticeable during the nine full rounds he has played to date was just how badly he struck the ball. Woods put it down to ‘needing more tournament reps’ and the usual stock cliches he fobs reporters off with, but this is the man who used to take the winter off and win his first tournament back in California almost as a matter of routine.
Even before Sunday, the after-effects of the injury were clearly still playing their part in preventing him doing what he needs to do behind the scenes to perform at even a fraction of his best, so what is the point in carrying on until he is healthy?
Following on from the USPGA Championship is the four-tournament FedEx Cup series and Woods has next to no chance of qualifying for that anyway.
Only the top 125 make it to the tee for the first event and right now he is outside the top 200.
Even if by some act of fool-hardiness he made it to Valhalla he would need something like a top-three finish to make the FedEx and the chances of that happening are right up there with Southampton going a month without selling someone.
Next up after that, following a week’s break, is the Ryder Cup. If somehow selected, there has been some talk that Woods would be prepared to play in the Wales Open the week before Gleneagles to get ready but that appears highly fanciful.
The great fear right now, of course, is that he has suffered something more than a temporary spasm that might be within the healing powers of a good physio, and has a recurrence of the original injury. Woods has had four surgeries on his right knee but, as we know, backs are an altogether different matter. You cannot keep going under the knife for a bad back. What we can say for certain at this stage is that all those years of pushing his body beyond its natural limits, of training with army SEALs and the like, have wreaked a terrible vengeance.
With the best will in the world, with all this physical scarring, can anyone see Tiger ever again reaching the heights Rory McIlroy has touched in the past month and that he used to reach himself so frequently?
We surely have not seen the last of Tiger, by any means. But the best of him? Sadly, that might be the case.