On Wednesday, Tiger Woods made a somewhat surprising return to action at the 2014 PGA Championship. The last time we saw him, on Sunday afternoon, he was in pain after “jarring” his surgically repaired back, and withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Now he says he’s ready to go, and although it’s hard to imagine he’ll be much of a factor at Valhalla, the truth is this: the former world No. 1 has absolutely nothing to lose.
Consider Woods’s 2014 season thus far. He’s withdrawn from two tournaments, and missed the primary cut at his own tournament, the Quicken Loans National. Add to that the missed secondary cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, one of his favorite courses on the calendar.
Woods’s best finish of the year, oddly enough, came at the WGC-Cadillac Championship back in March, where finished tied for 25th despite a Sunday 78. Less than two weeks later, he would go under the knife, and despite his best efforts, he hasn’t come close to competing since then.
The reality is that Woods appears to have come back far too quickly from his surgery. I don’t claim to know whether or not he’s actually healthy; that’s between him and his doctors. But regardless of whether it’s his competitive nature or just foolish pride at play here, Woods is at least smart enough to know that he has nothing to lose by playing.
In a worst case scenario, Woods continues to struggle, and perhaps even misses the cut. If that happens, 48 hours from now he’ll be back at his Florida home, resting and recovering from what has been a massively disappointing year. On the other hand, maybe – and it’s a big, big maybe – he plays well, at the very least playing through the weekend and getting something positive to take from the end of this season.
No matter what, come Monday morning, Woods will be hoping to see Tom Watson‘s name come up on his caller ID. Watson has said that he would consider Woods as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup if he were to play better and show that he’s healthy. If Woods had stayed home this week, that should have ended any chance of his making the American team at Gleneagles. At least by trying to play, he gives himself a chance to impress Watson and earn that selection.
Without a win, Woods’s season is over by Sunday evening no matter what happens. Now, even if he goes down, he’s doing it on his own terms.