Taming the Tiger: A Kinder, Gentler Woods Seems Likely
Mark Twain, the preeminent scratch wordsmith, once made a comparison of the hypothetical speech of dogs and cats and noted that “the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.”
This would apply to the man known as the Big Cat, too: Tiger Woods, for whom reticence was so ingrained in his public persona that he treated his words the same as he did his strokes. The fewer the better.
So it was refreshing recently when he went off script and was unusually forthcoming about his future in golf following the horrific, possibly career-ending accident nearly a year ago in Rancho Palos Verdes that damaged both legs and left one mangled to the point that amputation was an option.
“I think something that is realistic is playing the Tour one day — never full time, ever again — but pick and choose, just like Mr. [Ben] Hogan did,” he told Golf Digest. “Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s my reality. And I understand it, and I accept it.”
We did not learn much from his playing the PNC Championship, thrilling as it was to see him back on a golf course, enjoying father-son time and, well, competing. He was noticeably limping at times and required a golf cart, on a flat course. It was a start, at least — good for him, for the game and for Charlie. But it wasn’t Tour golf.
“After my back fusion, I had to climb Mt. Everest one more time,” he said. “I had to do it, and I did. This time around, I don’t think I’ll have the body to climb Mt. Everest, and that’s OK.”
The Masters was his Everest and he scaled it to victory in 2019, two years after his spinal fusion surgery, his 15th major championship and in all likelihood his last, leaving him three behind Jack Nicklaus.
He is 46 now and not a young 46, given the litany of knee and back surgeries he has endured, compounded by the injuries he suffered in the crash. But if he never hits another tournament shot, his place in golf history is secure. In March, he will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Satisfaction was never his goal. Perfection was, even in a game that will never yield it. But he got close at times. He was able to author his own story, more or less, for more than two decades, but the ending inevitably will write itself.
And, in his words, that’s OK, too.