Hearing that Tiger Woods would not be playing in this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Country Club, due to a strained neck, really stung for myself and Woods fanatics alike. This event, which he has won at 8 times over the course of his career, was certainly high up on his list in terms of tournaments he had marked down on his calendar.
Woods, who is 43 years of age and is currently in the midst of crafting one of the greatest athletic comebacks in all of professional sports, was showing tremendous progress and relentless determination in his efforts to make it back to the winners' circle. This delay comes at a really tough time, with the Masters right around the corner.
The next few weeks of golf will be some of the most competitive of the entire season and Woods, as well as the rest of the professional golfing field, will be using the coming weeks as a tune-up before they stride across Augusta National. Home to the Masters and surely one of the most popular golfing events of the year, the Masters holds a sacred place in Tigers heart and his long and highly anticipated return may now be in jeopardy.
In classic Woods fashion, he addressed via Twitter this afternoon that he would be withdrawing from the Arnold Palmer Invitational, failing to include any more details regarding how he is feeling and whether or not he will be ready to play come the Masters. In his official tweet, he didn't even offer any perspective on whether or not he would be recovered by the Masters, saying instead that he has been dealing with this injury for the last few weeks and it hasn't progressed.
As an optimist, I will try and shed some light on this situation. For starters, if this has truly been bothering him for the last few weeks now, Tiger has still been able to play some astonishing golf. After a T-10th place finish two weeks ago at the Golf World Championship event down in Mexico, Woods was atop the field in driving distance and he played extremely well with his irons. If it wasn't for his poor putting performance, he surely would've been in the hunt on the final day of the event.
Prior to that, he shot a solid 3rd round at the Genesis Open, where he propelled up the leaderboard but was unable to close the gap on the final day of the event. In short, if Woods has been injured for a few weeks now, he hasn't shown any true signs of it. I simply thought his poor performances in the final days of competition had to do with age. Undoubtedly, this neck injury is an example of that. However, if he is able to mitigate this pain and play through it, then this minor strain will not be something to worry about.
On the contrary, let's just hope Tiger is ready to play come Masters time. I know he's been waiting on this event since he played it last year, and I am too.