Can all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put golf’s Humpty Dumpty back together again?
Tiger Woods is sidelined for an indefinite amount of time after undergoing surgery on his right ankle to address post-traumatic arthritis caused by injuries suffered in his single-car crash in Los Angeles in February 2021. Woods withdrew during the rain-delayed third round of this year’s Masters in April after showing considerable discomfort walking the hills of Augusta National in bad weather.
Jack Nicklaus, whose record of 18 majors is looking more safe with every passing day and every injury Woods sustains, prefaced his comments about Woods during a press conference ahead of his appearance in the Greats of Golf exhibition Saturday during the Insperity Championship on the PGA Tour Champions.
“I don’t know a lot about what he’s been through,” Nicklaus began.
“He’s showed a lot of guts and courage to play and try to be part of what’s going on with the way he’s been,” he continued. “He’s actually swinging pretty well; he just can’t walk.”
Nicklaus recounted how he sat next to Woods at the Champion's Dinner at the Masters, as he does most years.
“We talk quite a bit,” Nicklaus said. “He said, ‘I’m really playing well. I’m hitting the ball great. My short game’s great. My putting’s good.’ He said, ‘I just can’t walk.’ And he says, ‘If it helps where I can walk, I’m willing to do it.’ ”
That’s about as good an explanation for why Woods agreed to go under the knife yet again as we’ve heard to date.
“He wouldn’t be having the operations if he wasn’t interested in wanting to continue to play,” Nicklaus said. “He’s a very motivated and dedicated young man to continue to play the game of golf.”
Nicklaus added of the 47-year-old golfer, whose body has been through the ringer: “The dedicated young doesn’t last very long.”
Annika Sorenstam, winner of 72 LPGA titles, walked away from the game on her own terms and has returned to play a handful of celebrity events, last year’s U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which she won in 2021. She has a keen eye for Woods’ plight.
“I can just see it from a fan’s standpoint,” Sorenstam said. “I think he’s in more pain than he lets everybody know. I think it’s a lot more serious. But he is so tough. And so courageous.”
How long Woods will be sidelined this time is anyone’s guess, but his participation in this year’s remaining three majors – the PGA Championship in May, U.S. Open in June and British Open in July – seems unlikely.
“I think we’d all like to see him play,” Sorenstam said. “He adds so much to the game every time he tees up. Whether he makes the cut or not, he adds to the tournament in so many ways.
“But you don’t want to see anybody in pain. You don’t want to see anybody, they’re hurting. Especially in his case. So hopefully this surgery will be the last of it. And will be good for him. Who knows.”
At this stage, not even Woods knows whether Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again.