Woods injured his elbow on this shot last year at the Open in Merion, and his back surgery has forced his withdrawal from this year’s event
By Harold Holder
Tiger Woods withdrew from the U. S. Open on Wednesday as he recovers from back surgery that has kept him out of golf for nearly three months.
It will be the second U. S. Open, and sixth major, he has missed because of injury over the last six years.
So the logical question must be:
Was last year’s U. S. Open at Merion in Ardmore the last Open that Tiger will ever play?
Father’s Day 2013 was a special anniversary for Woods. He didn’t do much to celebrate.
Last Father’s Day marked five years since Woods’ last major title, his epic, broken-leg U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines. The 2013 U.S. Open at venerable, old-school Merion in Ardmore was supposed to be the week that everything came together for Tiger. He had already won four titles last season. He was back to No. 1. His putting stroke was pure. He wouldn’t need to hit driver. Ben Hogan won a Grand Slam here. Everything was in place.
Father’s Day was to be the day Woods faced an accomplished rival in the final pairing in front of a national television audience. Instead, he teed off at 12:04 p.m. on basic cable, and his playing partner was a journeyman pro named Matt Bettencourt. Tiger Woods is not supposed to play final rounds of major championships at noon alongside Matt Bettencourt. This was not a good week.
“There’s always a lesson to be learned in every tournament whether you win or lose,” Woods said after signing for a 74 to finish 13-over for the event, his worst score at a major as a pro. “I’ll look back at the things I did right and the things I did wrong.”
This year’s Open is June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2, where Woods tied for third in 1999 and was runner-up in 2005. The withdrawal announcement on his website was not surprising. A week ago at a promotional event for the Quicken Loans National at Congressional, Woods said he still had not taken a full swing with a golf club and did not know when he could.
He had microdiscetomy surgery to relieve a pinched nerve March 31.
‘‘Unfortunately, I won’t be there because I’m not yet physically able to play competitive golf,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I’d like to convey my regrets to the USGA leadership, the volunteers, and the fans that I won’t be at Pinehurst. The US Open is very important to me, and I know it’s going to be a great week.’’
Woods last played March 9 at Doral, where he closed with a 78 while suffering what he called back spasms. He withdrew in the middle of the final round at the Honda Classic with back pain a week earlier.
Woods is a three-time U. S. Open champion, one short of the record shared by Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, and Willie Anderson. His most recent U. S. Open, in 2008 at Torrey Pines, was his 14th victory in 46 majors, a winning rate of 30 percent as a pro. He has not won a major since Torrey Pines, leaving him four short of Nicklaus’s record.
Woods missed the British Open and PGA Championship after knee surgery in 2008. He missed the US Open and British Open while allowing leg injuries to heal in 2011. He missed the Masters for the first time in April because of back surgery.
Nicklaus said earlier Wednesday that Woods’s health would be the biggest obstacle in breaking his record in the majors. Woods called Nicklaus earlier Wednesday to express regrets about missing the Memorial, and Nicklaus said that Woods indicated he was making progress.
‘‘If he’s healthy, I think Tiger has got 10-plus years to play top quality tournament golf,’’ Nicklaus said. ‘‘And I’ve said many times, he’s got a little over 40 tournaments to play the major championships; he’s only got to win five to pass my record. As good a player as he is, I don’t think that should be a big deal. But then again, he’s got to do it. Plus, he’s also got to be healthy to be able to do it.’’
Woods has not indicated when he might be able to return to competition, saying that would be up to his doctors and how he recovers from the surgery.
‘‘Despite missing the first two majors, and several other important tournaments, I remain very optimistic about this year and my future,’’ he said.