Commentary

Cascading effect for Tiger Woods

Updated: June 28, 2011, 8:37 PM ET
By Kevin Maguire | ESPN.com

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Full swings. Chip shots. Bump and runs. These are all things Tiger Woods has yet to do in his recovery from a left knee and Achilles injury.

If the world's 17th-ranked player hasn't been able to tackle golf's simple tasks because of his ailing body, how will a run at the British Open and 15th major title be possible in just more than two weeks?

Simply put, it won't.

Woods refused to rule anything out Tuesday at Aronimink Golf Club -- site of this week's AT&T National, which benefits his foundation. But he did say that if he were to play at Royal St. George's starting July 14, the goal is still the same.

"I'd go over there to win the golf tournament," Woods said, sporting a beard and mustache. "So, I need to obviously get my body ready so I can practice and eventually play."

But how is that even possible given the timetable? He's going to go from not even chipping balls to hitting full-force drivers under major championship conditions in barely more than two weeks?

In Woods' favor is that he's been in this situation before. With four surgeries on his balky left knee throughout his career, Tiger knows all too well what it takes to rehab this injury. And this time, he didn't even go under the knife.

Apparently the cumulative experience of suffering all those injuries finally has got Woods to take a different approach, which should help him in the long haul.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaWho is the best fit for Tiger's bag?

"I've pushed it enough times throughout the years, and I keep kind of resetting myself, setting myself back," Woods said. " … So I've played through [injuries] before, and I felt this [injury] wasn't anywhere near that. But I hurt myself again. It's time to actually have a different approach."

Woods admitted that had he skipped the Players Championship and not tried to play the PGA Tour's flagship event, he probably would be playing golf right now.

"[The Players Championship] was a big event, and on top of that, it was a borderline call, 50-50," Woods said. "I could play or not play. … I've played in pain before, and I've played injured and I've played through it. I've been very successful at it.

"There's been a number of years where I've been hurt more than people could possibly understand, and I've played and I've won. I just felt that it was good enough to give it a go, and I did, and I hurt myself."

Chalk up this new change in approach to experience.

"I've got to learn from what I did at the Players and do it right and not come back when I'm not ready to," Woods said. "There's not going to be a 50-50 call this time. I'm going to come back when I'm ready."

So it appears Woods very well might be absent from a second straight major. Since he turned professional in 1996, it would be just the second time he has missed two of golf's biggies in a row. The first came in 2008 after his ACL reconstruction surgery. That's also the last time Tiger won a major -- the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

And once Woods can tee it up again, what state will his game be in?

Remember, this is a guy who has played all of nine competitive holes since the Masters, shooting 42 on the front nine at TPC Sawgrass in mid-May. Even the best in the game need some competitive reps inside the ropes before being able to contend, especially at majors.

And that's saying nothing of working through his swing changes that were only starting to appear successful in a final-round 67 at Augusta National in early April.

So the question then becomes, when will Woods return to the game?

If he isn't able to play the British Open and his schedule holds to previous years, he would have only two tournaments -- the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship -- to earn enough FedEx Cup points to make the field at the first playoff event -- the Barclays. Right now, Tiger is 114th in the FedEx Cup standings, and only the top 125 get into the Barclays, which starts Aug. 25.

After that, the top 100 get into the BMW Championship, the top 70 into the DeutscheBank Championship and the top 30 into the Tour Championship. All could be in doubt for Woods if he doesn't return soon and post some decent finishes.

Tiger's injuries shortened the middle of his season. If he doesn't get back on the course soon, it could affect the rest of his year, too.

Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Kevin.Maguire@espn.com.

Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com.

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