Commentary

Dissecting Tiger Woods' medical woes

Updated: May 16, 2011, 2:36 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Each week, golf writer Bob Harig will take your questions and answer a few select ones on ESPN.com. Below are this week's selections.


I'm not buying the severity of Tiger's injury. I think he didn't want to suffer the indignity of posting a score over 80. After all, we all watched Tiger win a U.S. Open on a broken leg and a torn ACL. To me, this seemed like a convenient excuse. For whatever reason, Tiger has not played well under the watchful eye of Sean Foley.

Many point to Augusta as proof Tiger was making strides, but he really only played two good nine hole stretches (the back nine on Friday and the first nine on Sunday). Other than that, Tiger has been nothing more than a good tour pro. & Bubba was right. Tiger needs to go out and just swing the club, but without Foley anywhere near him.
-- Robbie Sherman

Harig: The view here is you have to give him the benefit of the doubt on the injury. In 15 years as a pro, Woods has withdrawn from a tournament due to injury just twice. It's not like he has made a habit of this. And while he did say the pain is not as severe as it was at the U.S. Open, this time it clearly made it difficult for him to perform.

There was no sense in continuing, even if he was under par. As for Foley, it is way too soon to say that this is a mistake. Swing changes are complicated or can be. Bubba Watson said more than that Tiger just needed to swing the club, but at Augusta, what seemed clear was that Woods was less mechanical. And that is certainly the goal.


I preface this by admitting to being a cynic. No pain during two 9-hole practice rounds. No wincing. No wild shots. Little or no indications of discomfort discernable on first three holes on Thursday. Then a triple-bogey on No 4. Then comes the limping. Give me a break!

He [Tiger Woods] realized he was out of the tournament on the 5th tee and began to set up the excuse. I believe there is a better than even chance that he will file for a medical exemption to the PGA [Tour] to be exempted from the "onus" requirement to play in at least 15 events. Let's watch.
-- Charley Molley

Harig: Woods, to me, did appear to have issues during the practice rounds. And he hit his share of wayward shots. And he was limping on the first tee Thursday morning. There are many who think he was tanking it, but it seemed pretty obvious to an eyewitness (me) that he was in distress.

If he kept going and made it worse, wouldn't he get criticized for that, too? As for the 15-event minimum, Tiger has plenty of time to reach it -- with very few repercussions if he doesn't.


Have you happened to have had a chance to watch any of Mike Weir's golf this year? Being from Canada, I have always been a huge fan of his. I grew up watching George Knudson golf in Winnipeg and was wondering what Mike's chances are of ever surpassing George for the most PGA wins.
-- Grant Iverson

Harig: It has really been a struggle for Weir, the 2003 Masters champion. A partial ligament tear in his right elbow hampered him last year and he failed to earn enough money on a medical exemption earlier this year to keep his card, forcing him to seek sponsor exemptions. Weir has made just one cut this year and has just one round in the 60s. He needs just one more victory to surpass Knudson's PGA Tour total of eight.


How in the world is Brad Faxon exempt on tour? Or is he non-exempt, but playing every single week on a sponsor's exemption? Over the past 2 1/2 years he has managed to play 57 regular PGA Tour events. He has made 10 of those cuts, with a best finish of T48. He finished 221st and 220th on the money list in '09 and '10.

He hasn't won since '05, probably milked a couple extra years out of a major medical extension and one-time overall money list, but there is no way he's exempt now. What gives? This has to be one of the great mysteries of the universe. It seems he's taking up a spot that could go to an alternate who actually has a chance to make the cut.
-- Matt Kavanaugh

Harig: You pretty much have it figured out. In 2007, Faxon underwent ACL and microfracture surgery on his right knee, which caused him to miss almost all of 2008. In 2009, he played on a career money list exemption for being among the top-50 all-time money winners. He is playing out of the past champion category this year, which doesn't get you into many events. That suggests he is getting sponsor exemptions, and that is no surprise. Faxon is considered one of the game's good guys, and the eight-time winner is likely being rewarded for that.


It's amazing how much Tiger is being criticized over his current play. His swing changes. His changing to a different putter. People, come on! A man that's won 14 majors all of a sudden doesn't know what's best for him! At this year's Masters how many of the top-10 players in the world finished higher than fourth place?

The point I'm trying to make is he [Tiger] has in the past had a bad knee, ankle, heel and I'm sure some lingering personal problems. On top of that a major life change along with a swing change. ... Please give the man the opportunity to get healthy, so he can have a more consistent schedule. It's amazing how he was criticized for finishing fourth in a major and for 95 percent of the tour that would be considered an awesome showing.
-- Philly

Harig: If you read this mailbag frequently you'll see that Tiger elicits many opinions. There is no question that he is held to a different standard. He is judged against his own record.


With 14 majors, has Tiger [Woods] reached the end of his run of majors? Did Earl have a premonition back in September 1995 that will come true? Fathers do know best and Earl Woods had a plan for Tiger and together they were a lethal combination. It used to seem that Jack's record of 18 majors would be surpassed but Earl's words of wisdom back in 1995 are starting to have that eerie feel to it.
-- Sandon Robertson

Harig: Earl Woods did say in 1995 after his son had won his second U.S. Amateur that Tiger would go on to win 14 majors. At the time, it was viewed as a huge number, not as any limit on what he could do. Earl would undoubtedly be glad if he were wrong and Tiger went on to capture more.


I have always been interested in knowing if any PGA Tour players are required to actually pay an entry fee to participate each week in their tournaments. With the purses so high and first-place winnings usually over $1 million. & Plus we wonder about the person who "makes the cut" but ends up last, did they actually make any money versus what they paid in an entry fee.
-- John Starrs

Harig: PGA Tour members have annual dues of $100 but they are not required to pay entry fees to tournaments. And anyone who makes the cut is paid, with last-place money in a regular PGA Tour event typically in the $10,000 range.

Have a question? Send it to Bob Harig's mailbag at BobHESPN@gmail.com to see whether it gets used next week.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE