With Tiger Woods withdrawing from two scheduled starts at the Genesis Open and The Honda Classic, then twice being unable to make news conferences at Riviera Country Club, then reporting that said Woods' doctors have advised him to remain "horizontal," there's been mounting reasons for golf fans to speculate if Tiger Woods is going to retire.
If Woods' back is unable to deal with the basic rigors of tournament golf, the thought goes, then why wouldn't Woods retire, spend time with his kids and walk away with one of the best -- if not the best -- career in golf history?
Tiger Woods isn't going to retire if he isn't medically forced to do so. And that's clear because Woods would have already retired if he didn't want to make the arduous journey back to even sniffing competitive golf after two back surgeries in the fall of 2015. Instead, Woods fought his instincts and took his time, eased into training and working on his golf game, day by day. There were likely setbacks. There were dark moments, as Woods has described. But he endured all of those for the hope of getting back inside the ropes and competing again.
And he did that, at the Hero World Challenge. He did finish 15th out of 17 players who finished the event. However, there were encouraging signs, leading the field in birdies. He chipped pretty well. He putted pretty well. His biggest mistakes were in course and round management. He also didn't appear to be in pain, although he was walking a flat, resort course. Woods felt encouraged and certainly had to hope he could clean up some things and have some modest success on more difficult courses he would routinely play.
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The question was if his back could hold up in cross-country and transcontinental jaunts, playing on difficult golf courses, all the while knowing that his playing partners weren't dogging it like many were in the Bahamas. Woods set out to play four times in five weeks, logging well over 10,000 miles to fly from Florida to San Diego to Los Angeles to Dubai to Florida to Los Angeles back to Florida. He hoped to play 16 rounds. He got in three before what's described as lower back spasms sidelined him. Now he has trouble sitting down.
So where does Woods go from here? Can he possibly play in the Masters? Could he manage to play before then? Frankly, those questions are completely unimportant until Woods can answer in the affirmative that he can sit.
Woods knew this was going to be his future. Maybe not this lousy this quickly, but Woods was aware that his back could flare up at any time for no obvious reason and debilitate his minute-to-minute life, much less his comeback.
The 14-time major winner seems willing to be patient, even after this latest setback. But, if these back problems persist, Woods' focus should be on his quality of life now and for as long as he's alive. Forget golf.
So, will Tiger Woods retire? Only as a last resort.