If there’s one thing that we’ve always known about Tiger Woods, it’s that he’s the epitome of competitiveness. It’s that trait that has led him to winning 14 majors and 79 total PGA Tour events over the course of his storied career. Whenever he decides to hang up his spikes, he’ll be right there with names like Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and the like.
Unfortunately, in 2014, it’s that same fire and drive that cost him any chance to compete for majors, and now it’s cost him a possible spot on the Ryder Cup team as well.
On Wednesday, Woods told American team captain Tom Watson that his lingering back issues wouldn’t allow him to compete at Gleneagles at the end of September, and that he was respectfully removing himself from consideration. While, to many of us, this seems like the obvious, smart decision, it must have been one of the hardest decisions Woods has had to make in his entire career.
Everybody knows that there are just four tournaments circled on Tiger’s calendar, in April, June, July and August. To him, the season begins at the Masters, ends at the PGA Championship, and if he does his job right, the FedEx Cup Playoffs are a nice, well-paid bonus. That’s the whole reason he hurried back from back surgery in March just to be ready to play at Royal Liverpool. Close behind, of course, was the idea that he could impress Watson enough to earn a captain’s pick even if he wasn’t truly ready to play on the highest level.
Some may look at Watson’s wavering – did Woods really need to prove how healthy he was to earn a spot? – as a driving force here, but the simple reality is that Tiger Woods always believes he can win just by outworking everybody else. This time, he outworked himself, and it cost him in a big way. It was obvious from the time he came back at the Quicken Loans National that he wasn’t himself, and he kept forcing the issue because he doesn’t know any other way.
Now, we don’t know when he’ll be back. Tiger says he’s shooting for December, at the World Challenge. Like the Quicken, it benefits his foundation, but it’s also a comfort zone. Conveniently it falls four months from now, and four months before he hopes to drive down Magnolia Lane to get back to chasing major No. 15.