I realize this won’t go over well with buttoned up, old school golf fans who believe nothing could possibly diminish the appeal of their beloved Masters. But the weekend ratings for last year’s Masters were the worst since 1957, and that was at least part because Tiger Woods wasn’t there.
It’s reasonable to wonder if he won’t be there again this year.
Two months before the Masters, and with his game, his body and certainly his head not in tournament shape, Woods announced Wednesday he is taking another break from the game. A statement on his website read in part, “Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me. My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf. Like I’ve said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I’m ready, I’ll be back.”
I watched Woods play the first round of the Phoenix Open. He was pretty awful. He was 4-over after four holes and 5-over after nine before settling in at 2-over-73. That turned out to be the good day. He ballooned an 11-over-82 in the second round and missed the cut. But with Marshawn Lynch and the Super Bowl in town, at least Woods managed a timely joke after his second round: “I’m only here so I won’t get fined.”
He was playing so poorly at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif., last week, saying he had tightness in his back, that he withdrew after 11 holes. Woods has had a variety of physical ailments and missed the Masters last year because of “minor” back surgery. But at this point, I’m not sure that his mental state isn’t worse than his physical state. He’s suffering from a lack of confidence in his game and possibly a lack of will to play through injuries.
Woods’ entire statement:
The last two weeks have been very disappointing to me, especially Torrey, because I never want to withdraw. Unfortunately, lately injuries have made that happen too often.
This latest injury is not related to my previous surgery. I am having daily physical therapy and I am feeling better every day.
Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me. My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf. Like I’ve said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I’m ready, I’ll be back. Next week I will practice at Medalist and at home getting ready for the rest of the year. I am committed to getting back to the pinnacle of my game. I’d like to play The Honda Classic — it’s a tournament in my hometown and it’s important to me — but I won’t be there unless my game is tournament-ready. That’s not fair to anyone. I do, however, expect to be playing again very soon.
I want to thank the fans in Phoenix and San Diego. They were amazing. I greatly appreciate everyone’s support.
Woods has slipped to a career-worst 62nd in the world rankings, and he hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. But he still moves the meter in ticket sales and television ratings. Sports Media Watch reported after last year’s Masters that the 3.9 rating for Saturday’s round was the lowest since 1957 (1.2). The final round earned a 6.8 rating, down 28 percent from 2013 (9.4) and 15 percent from 2012 (8.0). Only the 1980, 1961 and 1957 earned lower numbers.
Logic says Woods will do anything possible to be in Augusta in April. But everything else right now says he won’t be there.
•Some recent ramblings from the digital jukebox
— AJC: Trade likely means Hawks are planning for something — MyAJC: Kyle Shanahan, the coach’s son, has absorbed a lot of jabs — AJC: Greg Hardy skates (and is he worth the risk for Falcons)? — MyAJC: Hawks’ deadline move wouldn’t hurt chemistry — AJC: Tech doing just fine, recruiting rankings notwithstanding — MyAJC: Dan Quinn’s ascent to top job was years in making — AJC: Forget trade talk — Dan Quinn wants Julio Jones on his team — AJC: Falcons need players but Dan Quinn is a good start — MyAJC: Tom Brady takes the air out of critics in Super Bowl — AJC: Short takes: Brady rallies Pats but Seahawks bungle ending — AJC: Another possible embarrassment for Falcons: Fake crowd noise — MyAJC: There’s no confusion about pecking order on Super Bowl teams — AJC: Dan Quinn could have final day on 53-man roster — MyAJC: Blank speaks but remains vague on Falcons’ restructuring — MyAJC: Tiger Woods’ problems aren’t just physical anymore — AJC: Is it Tiger time … or is Tiger Woods’ time over? — MyAJC: LeGarrette Blount walked out on team — and straight to Super Bowl — AJC: Georgia’s Lockette playing for third straight Super Bowl team — MyAJC: Dan Quinn says he’s ready for next challenge (with Falcons) — AJC: Lynch goes into interview Beast Mode again (surprise!) — MyAJC: Great or not, Patriots’ legacy is forever tarnished — AJC: Seattle players say Quinn will be ‘great head coach’ for Falcons — AJC: Brady says ‘feelings got hurt’ by accusations (really?) — MyAJC: Hawks are closest team to rare Atlanta sports title