Tiger Woods will never compete again.
I’ve been trying really hard not to get to this point. But I just can’t see any other outcome.
The least-surprising news of the week came on Thursday, when the 14-time major champion announced via his website that he won’t play at Bay Hill next week, the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the King’s death in September.
“Unfortunately, due to ongoing rest and rehabilitation on my back, I won’t be able to play,” Woods said.
“I’m especially disappointed because I wanted to be at Bay Hill to help honour Arnold. This is one event I didn’t want to skip.”
Well, that and the Masters, of course. So will we see Woods at Augusta?
“Presently, I have no timetable for my return to golf,” he added.
That’s a really long-winded way of saying “no”.
I’ll call it now: A week or two before the Masters he’ll say he’s “hopeful” of playing, then a few days later he’ll announce he isn’t. Repeat until impending retirement.
Even his good friend Steve Stricker has little hope.
“He’s working hard at it,” Stricker said at the Valspar Championship. “But I don’t think he’s doing that well physically.”
Stricker explained that he’d watched Woods at the Dubai Desert Classic, where he last played (and I use “played” in the loosest sense of the term), and wasn’t happy with what he was seeing.
“The way he was walking didn’t look quite right,” Stricker added. “Walking very gingerly, slow and methodical. It didn’t really look physically like he was ready to play. You have that and then that goes into your game and it affects you mentally, too.
“It’s the chicken and the egg thing. What does he have to get right first? Obviously he has to get his body right first before he can compete. Then it’s going to take some time for him to come back believing in his swing and trusting his ability again.”
And then there was that really awkward interview with Peter Dawson, where Woods physically grimaces as he sits in his chair while desperately trying to style it out.
I said this a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll say it again: You think Woods is done, but you just can’t bring yourself to admit it.
Believe me, it’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m now at peace with the fact I’ll never see Woods compete at the highest level again.
It doesn’t mean you can’t cherish the memory of the greatest player that ever graced this planet.
In the run-up to every Masters, I watch the clip of that chip from 2005 at least once a day. I’ll still continue to do that. But it doesn’t mean I long for Woods to be playing again.
We’ve had more than 20 years of watching Woods at the top of his game. How is that not enough for some people? He’s achieved literally everything there is to achieve in this game, and it’s been a hell of a ride.
As much as I wanted one more rolling back of the clock, one more Masters where he rocks up and puts the pretenders in their place – as well as the critics. But I’m over it now, and you should be too.
Woods has nothing left to prove. He now has two choices: Follow the Nick Faldo line and call it quits once he feels he can’t compete, or have a few ceremonial farewell like Jack Nicklaus.
I just cannot for the life of me see it being the latter.