When does Tiger say stop?

Ronan MacNamara
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Tiger Woods on the Swilcan Bridge during The 150th Open at St Andrews (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images)

When Tiger Woods cut an emotional figure trudging over the Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews as he missed the cut at the 150th Open Championship there was an overriding sense of foreboding that this might finally be the last sighting of Tiger Woods at St Andrews or in golf. 

Woods suggested as much despite an improved second round effort of 75, and many would have made their peace with that. A fitting way to bow out at his favourite golf course where he has had so much success. 

The Old Course had become Tiger’s place. 

But is it not time we left the Big Cat alone? How many more times are we going to clamour over seeing the 15-time major champion literally give blood sweat and tears just to hobble around on one leg trying to make the cut at a major?

Is it really worth seeing him gingerly lower himself into a bunker barely able to put weight on his right leg just for our enjoyment? 

Watching Tiger Woods try to compete in 2022 is not fun or enjoyable, it’s not even good viewing on television. It’s just sad. 

Rory McIlroy’s opening his second round at the same time on that Friday afternoon was poignant. Is it time Woods fully passed the baton on to Rory? 

His latest withdrawal from his own Hero World Challenge is another indication that unfortunately the end is near for him, certainly in a competitive sense. 

“The goal is to play just the major championships and maybe one or two more, physically that’s all I can do … I don’t have much left in this leg,” said Woods in the pre-tournament press conference in the Bahamas. 

Woods also went on to say he can hit whatever shot he wants; he just can’t walk. 

Tiger’s comeback period from 2018 to 2019 was nothing short of remarkable and for me, to win the 2019 Masters is the greatest sporting comeback of all time – no it’s not Istanbul I say with gritted teeth. 

But that was the height of it, coming back from his car accident in February 2021 looks like a bridge too far. He is lucky to still have his life. 

Woods played a total of just nine rounds in 2022 and each one was not pleasant viewing although I will admit that seeing him slump up the hill on 18 en route to an opening 71 at Augusta this year brought a tear to the eye. 

Other than that, he is not in the physical condition to play often enough to be sharp enough for the four big tournaments every season. Even if he does play in another couple of events, will his body allow him to play the week before a major? 

Every week he played this year had the same build up. He arrives on Sunday looking immaculate, very good on Monday, took it easy on Tuesday, hobbled a bit on Wednesday and his condition deteriorates throughout the week. 

I made the point earlier this year that if Tiger wants to be able to genuinely compete at the major tournaments, then he would be better served by arriving the day before the tournament as his pre-tournament preparation clearly hampered him when he teed it up on tournament days. 

But even so, is it worth seeing him finish in the top-20 while the crippling pain is etched all over his face? He doesn’t deserve that and I for one don’t want him to think he needs to do it.

Could we stomach another year of a minute-by-minute prognosis from Andrew Coltart? Or the constant praise from Nick Dougherty over what a warrior Tiger Woods has been just to be here this week, just to fuel content on our screens? 

I just don’t know if I could scroll through my Twitter feed in late March and be greeted by the hyperbolic American frenzy of how amazing Tiger looks hitting butter cut six-irons on the practice range. Great for his PIP for sure – he’ll already be guaranteed another $15million windfall – but seriously, what is the point? 

Are we approaching Groundhog Day? Or have we already passed the threshold on that? Seeing him limp around Augusta or Hoylake while being force-fed every single shot as he tries to bring home a 77 for a twelve-over-par finish just doesn’t do it for me, and I’d wager it doesn’t do it for him either.

Don’t get me wrong, it will be cool to see Tiger in the PNC with his son Charlie – more so for Charlie and that extremely impressive golf swing that has moulded the technique of Tiger, Rory and JT into one. 

The match with McIlroy vs Thomas and Spieth should make for top quality viewing. The concept of the match has been good for golf and has been entertaining even if the golf hasn’t been of the highest quality. 

I feel we are edging ever closer to a world where Tiger dials himself down to exhibition appearances, and in theory that might give him more television time which means we would get to see him more often than just four times a year. 

Tiger still has the talent, that will never leave him. But his body is letting him down and I don’t know if he can rebuild himself one more time. 

When does he admit enough is enough? 

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