In an astounding career that has spanned over 20 years and has included many comebacks and triumphs, Tiger Woods’ latest incident is cause for more serious concern.
On Feb. 23, the golf legend was in a single-car accident that left him hospitalized, leaving his fans to worry over the potentially life-threatening injuries he may have sustained. It was not until later that night that Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, reported that Woods’ life was not in danger. However, he did end up suffering damage to both the upper and lower portions of his tibia and fibula in his right leg, as well as damage to the ankle bones and trauma to the muscle and soft tissue of the leg.
Woods is no stranger to surgery. As an athlete he has experienced extreme physical trauma over the course of his career. Not including his latest surgery from the recent car crash, Woods has undergone eight major surgeries, including multiple knee and back operations.
It has now been over two months since Woods’ accident, and many members of the golf media have begun to speculate about Woods’ return to professional golf, hopeful that he will soon be back near the top of the world rankings.
While it is understandable to want the most exciting name in golf to play again, it is time to pause and let Woods live a normal life for a while. He has provided fans with so many incredible memories, and the golf world would not be the same without him. The least we can do is leave him alone, as it is crucial for both his mental and physical health and more importantly, for his children.
Woods is not only one of the greatest golfers of all time, but with his unprecedented talent and charisma, he has succeeded in lifting the sport of golf to new heights. Woods has been a massive inspiration to the younger professionals on tour — those who looked up to him as adolescents now have to match up with him on a regular basis. Television ratings for the PGA Tour skyrocket with Woods’ mere presence in tournaments, and as long as he plays, that will continue, which is why many are rooting for his return.
Woods’ life has been broadcasted on television and social media ever since he was just 2 years old and appeared on the “Mike Douglas Show” with his father Earl Woods. From that moment on, Tiger Woods has lived in a metaphorical glass house, allowing the public to see much of what goes on in both his professional and private life.
Living in this glass house has been downright destructive to Woods and his family, which was underscored back in 2009 during his infamous cheating scandal that was the top headline of many news outlets for weeks. The scandal ultimately tarnished his public image, causing many of even his most diehard fans to question their loyalty to the golfer.
While the 2009 scandal was completely self-inflicted and inexcusable, it came with more public criticism than an average citizen would have to endure. The scandal not only damaged the image of Woods, but took an enormous toll on his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, and their children.
As he was in the process of rebranding his life off the course, his play on the course suffered due to physical injury. Tiger Woods was the no. 1 ranked golfer in the world at the end of each calendar year in 11 out of the previous 12 years (1998–2009), but shortly following his divorce and his first knee surgery, the golf superstar slipped to outside the top 20 by 2011. He reached world no. 1 again in 2013 but was derailed by injury not long after. In 2015, Tiger Woods slipped outside the top 300 golfers in the world, leaving golf fans to ponder whether he would ever be himself again.
Any hope fans may have had were crushed again in 2017 when it was reported that Woods had been arrested on a DUI charge, as he was found falling asleep at the wheel while on painkillers prescribed for his recent surgery. The DUI really made fans consider if they had seen Woods play golf at a high level for the last time.
It was apparent that he was addicted to painkillers — something that had happened before back in 2010 when he went into rehab. Addiction and mental health are very serious issues in the United States, as there is a direct correlation between substance abuse and mental health issues. With everything that Woods has been through, it is vital that he prioritizes his mental health this time.
Throughout Woods’ professional life, his fans have always been hopeful for a return to “vintage Tiger Woods,” and many times he has bounced back to provide his devoted following with a blast from the past. However, this time feels different than any other time in the past 12 years, since his ACL knee injury and scandal back in 2008–09, not only because of Woods’ age, but because he has already proven he can make a full-scale return to golf. Woods’ improbable return during the 2018–19 PGA Tour Season, which led to his historic victory at the 2019 Masters, was nothing more than a minor miracle. This accomplishment is something that Woods could certainly hang his hat on; it was his first major in 11 years, and any future victory of his will likely feel less exciting.
Despite his victorious return, he is not a robot, and making a full recovery from a spinal fusion surgery and later returning to professional sports took a significant physical and mental toll on him. He can only overcome so many obstacles before he becomes completely burnt out.
Woods has transformed his public image, and due to many months recovering from various injuries in the past 10 years, has become a very active father to his now teenage children. Recently, Woods captured many hearts when he and his son, Charlie, participated in the PNC Championship back in December.
When it was first reported that Tiger Woods was in a car accident back in February, I couldn’t help but first think of his children and how scared they must have been for him. Thankfully, Woods is lucky to be alive.
Woods’ professional resume of 15 major championships, combined with 82 PGA Tour wins and years of dominance, makes up one of the most amazing careers in sports history.
His decision on whether to make a return to golf will be ultimately decided by him and his family, but it is important that the decision is made without outside noise and pressure. He needs to trust his doctors while prioritizing mental health in his recovery. The game of golf will always be there for Woods in many ways besides playing: coaching, broadcasting or just being a fan are all options for him to venture back into the game in an interesting manner.
Woods’ return to the spotlight is inevitable, so it is important that whatever way he returns, his family and children know he is well.