Tiger Woods is my favorite golfer, which made Sunday a sad day for me. The sadness stems from the realization that this might be the end for the greatest golfer of my lifetime. And no, I’m not including the great Jack Nicklaus as being a player from my lifetime since he was already playing on the senior tour when I started seriously following the sport.
Woods, returning to competitive play after having surgery March 31 to repair a ruptured disc in his back, withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone after his tee shot on the ninth hole in obvious pain.
He said he reinjured his back after an awkward shot on the second hole when he lost his balance and hopped down into a bunker.
In my years as a sports fan, it’s been pretty much 100 percent that when professional athletes start to have back problems, they’re done.
I hope that’s not the case for Woods.
Thanks to ESPN and SportsCenter, I first started following Woods in 1993 when — as a 17-year-old — he rallied from 2 down with two holes to play to win his third consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur.
While Woods may go down as one of the great front-runners in PGA Tour history, he’s never been known for comebacks as a professional.
Not so as an amateur.
The next year, in the finals of the U.S. Amateur, he rallied from 3 down with nine holes to play to win the first of his three straight U.S. Amateurs.
As a pro, Woods made no secret about his desire to surpass the record 18 major tournaments won by Nicklaus, and proceeded to convince many of us that it was inevitable.
He won his first of four Masters tournaments in 1997, and added three U.S. Opens, three British Opens and four PGA Championships.
I watched him win his last U.S. Open in 2008 pretty much on one leg. As a matter of fact, it was the last of his major championships.
And I’m left wondering if he’ll ever win another.
As a man, he fell from grace in my eyes when his marital infidelities made the news at the end of 2009, but he was still my favorite golfer and I felt he could overcome the fall from grace and win again — win major tournaments again — and still be able to surpass Nicklaus.
But now, with back issues that he, I and others had hoped his most recent surgery could repair, I’m not as sure.
More than one golf analyst criticized Woods publicly by for his training regiment — he went from being a wiry teenager to a muscled young man.
There were reports that he’d train by running in combat boots, and some said it seemed he over did things with weight training and focus on his physique.
There was no word from the Woods camp as of late Sunday afternoon about whether or not he will try and play this week in the season’s last major — the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.
But even if he does, as much as I’ll be pulling for him to finish on top, the realist in me has me wondering if he’ll ever win another major championship again.