<
>

Tiger Woods takes the long view

6/8/2011 - Golf Tiger Woods

The attitude is admirable, and for so much of his career, undeniable. Tiger Woods shows up with winning on his mind. There is no easing into competition, no using tournaments as warm-ups, no thought of walking inside the ropes to work on his game.

And so it makes sense that he announced Tuesday he will not play next week's U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club.

"Not playing in US Open," Woods wrote via Twitter. "Very disappointed. Short-term frustration for long-term gain."

His frustration is understandable; looking out for the future, however, is laudable.

Why risk further injury to his left knee and Achilles? Why try to play when you haven't prepared?

At last month's Players Championship, despite barely being able to walk and having not played a round of golf since the Masters, Woods did not back down about his goals. "Same as always, try and win the event," he said. "Nothing has changed."

Two days later, Woods was hobbling off the TPC Sawgrass course, his immediate future in doubt.

We haven't seen him on a golf course since, and he wasn't scheduled to even begin trying to get back on his feet until last week. And he was supposed to play the U.S. Open in a little over a week? With nine holes of competition since the Masters?

He is far better off skipping it, getting healthy and focusing on the rest of the year, the rest of his career.

You always doubt Tiger at your own risk, as many found out when he came back from so much inactivity to win the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines three years ago. That epic victory was the 14th major title of his career and came in a playoff over Rocco Mediate despite an ACL that was torn and a bone in his leg that was broken.

The difference today is that his swing and his game remain in disrepair. He showed flashes at the Masters, where he tied for fourth, but he's been unable to build on that performance, having completed just those nine holes at Sawgrass. Even if he began practicing again now, is he healthy?

Woods has not said what is giving him more trouble, the four-time surgically repaired left knee or the Achilles -- which presumably is the reason he was using a walking boot and crutches. In general terms, it is difficult to walk if the Achilles is an issue. And it's not very easy to practice -- let alone walk a golf course -- if those issues are still in play.

So much focus has been on Woods' ability to catch Jack Nicklaus' major championship record of 18, but what's the rush? Woods has plenty of time -- if healthy. That goal will never be achieved if the pain persists and his game remains so shaky. At age 35, Woods is still ahead of the pace Nicklaus set.

"I am extremely disappointed that I won't be playing in the U.S. Open, but it's time for me to listen to my doctors and focus on the future," Woods said on his website. "I was hopeful that I could play, but if I did, I risk further damage to my left leg. My knee and Achilles tendon are not fully healed. I hope to be ready for AT&T National [starting June 30], the next two majors and the rest of the year."

Woods, famously, did not listen to his doctors three years ago when he defied their requests to rest and not play the U.S. Open. Woods stormed out and said, "I'm going to play and I'm going to win."

He did so in dramatic fashion, but to attempt to do so now would be foolish.

"It's been a frustrating and difficult year," he said. "But I'm committed to my long-term health."

Better for Tiger to sit this one out and focus on the Open Championship at Royal St. George's, which begins July 14.

And no point in rushing back for that, either -- unless he is fully recovered.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.