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Woods right to miss out on Gleneagles

Bob Harig | ESPN.com
August 14, 2014
ESPN analyst Paul Azinger discusses how Tiger Woods can recover from his latest setback

The case for Tiger Woods and the Ryder Cup was one beyond the reach of even the most high-priced attorneys. And that's if a court would even hear it.

Woods played just eight times worldwide in 2014, missed two cuts, withdrew from two other tournaments, and just hobbled off the course at the PGA Championship with an aching back and an uncertain immediate future.

But US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson actually showed a great deal of respect toward Woods on Monday when he all but said: Tiger, it's up to you.

And on Wednesday night, Woods said he couldn't do it.

Tiger Woods has been playing through the pain in recent weeks © Getty Images
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While it would have been interesting to see how this all would have played out - there was certainly a possibility that Woods could have been healthy and playing better in six weeks, when the Ryder Cup starts at Gleneagles - it simply didn't look good for Woods to prolong this, especially if he might run the risk of facing more problems.

So he came to the conclusion that it is better for the US team, better for himself, to forgo any thought of playing at Gleneagles.

"It was a big decision for him to place a call to Tom and take himself out of consideration," Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said. "Often times people have questioned Tiger's commitment to the Ryder Cup, to team events. Nobody should question his integrity when it comes to play for his country. I think this says a lot about his feelings toward the event and team competition."

Woods isn't as bad off as he was after Doral, when he lamented his inability to get out of bed. But his doctors are telling him to not play golf, and that suggests there are some issues to address.

His game has been out of sorts all year. His earlier-than-expected return from back surgery led to optimism, followed by more questions when he had more back spasms at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Woods got treatment and thought he could play at the PGA Championship, but it became apparent it wasn't working there, either.

He can play this start and stop game if he wants, try to patch together a golf swing and game, hold his breath and hope for the best.

Or he can do what he said he will on Wednesday, which is to get better, get stronger.

"I've been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed," he said. "They've advised me not to play or practice now."

And so the golf clubs go away for the time being, and Woods works on getting healthy. He'll miss the Ryder Cup, and some appearance fee opportunities he had scheduled in Argentina and Asia. He said on his website that he will not return to competition until the World Challenge in December.

"Then we will take it from there," Steinberg said.

This ought to put an end to the inane chatter that Woods has conveniently come up with injuries to avoid posting a bad score.

He has now withdrawn from five tournaments since 2010, leading to smirks that he came up lame because he was playing poorly. The other side: He played poorly because he was injured.

In three of those instances, a long layoff soon followed. In 2011, he returned too soon from Achilles and knee injuries at the Players Championship, playing just nine holes and then missing three months of competition, including two major championships.

The following spring, when those Achilles symptoms showed up during the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, rather than risk further damage, Woods withdrew and went on to win three times that year.

Earlier this year, he withdrew from the final round of the Honda Classic, played the following week at Doral, then had back surgery a few weeks later, missing three months.

And now after withdrawing from the Bridgestone, Woods managed to play two rounds at the PGA - somehow shooting 35 on the back nine on Friday - while realising that another break is important, meaning another three months away from competition.

As tough as things looked for Woods in recent weeks, he actually showed some good signs before suffering the setback in Akron. While he had difficulty driving the ball, a problem that will need considerable attention, he was hitting his irons, for the most part, quite well.

It showed, even briefly, that parts of his game had come back.

This is another setback, but he was never going to be close to the player he was without time to work out the issues in his game. Now he needs more time and is apparently willing to take it.

Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for ESPN.com

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