With the fourth back surgery in the books and no sign that Tiger Woods will ever play again at a level to his super-human standards, we are left to wonder if he's actually been over this whole competitive golf thing for a while.
Hank Haney, Tiger's former instructor, wondered this out loud on his Sirius show last Friday. From Golf.com:
“I don’t buy a lot of these theories that people have," Haney said. "I don’t buy that...this is the end all be all for him, coming back and beating Nicklaus’ record. That’s never gonna happen. I mean, come on people, get real."
Haney went on to explain that he does believe Woods is capable of winning again, if he can return to the game for an extended period of time. "I'll never give up on that part," he said. The problem? "I don’t believe Tiger is that enthralled by this whole comeback idea. [The media] believe that he's got this burning desire to come back and play. I don't think he does."
Joel Beall at GolfDigest.com wonders if we are looking at a Tiger who is resigned to his place in golf history, but also possibly leaving fans with memories of a figure that is far less incredible than the one we knew in his prime.
Willie Mays' remarkable 22-year-career cannot be encapsulated without mention of his final two seasons, especially as the indelible image of Mays falling down in the World Series has become the go-to comparison for any athlete that's stayed past their prime. (One that was conjured after Woods hit three balls into the water at Congressional last summer.) Evander Holyfield, at 42 years old, was banned in 2006 from boxing in New York due to diminishing skills; his nine bouts following the decision did little to refute that stance, slowly but surely deteriorating his standing in the sport. Brett Favre's annual retirement waffling -- coupled with a nightmarish final season and allegations of workplace misconduct -- turned one of the NFL most popular personalities into a punchline.
I do wonder if there is a generation that has already forgotten how incredibly dominant Tiger was--shoot, even those of us who lived it are starting to forget.
Sometimes I wonder if we long for a comeback to just ensure the legacy that gave us so many thrills? And if so, is that such a bad thing?