Tiger Woods's reputation has undergone something of an evolution lately. Seen first as a young player with limitless talent, he now seems also to be fragile and injury-prone.
Last December the U.S. Amateur champion had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to remove some noncancerous tumors. At the Masters in April he suffered from back spasms and nearly had to withdraw from his first major championship. In May he missed the U.S. Intercollegiate and Pac-10 championships with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Last Friday at the Open it was a wrist injury that forced Woods to quit on the 6th hole and sent him to the training room for treatment.
"I'm kind of bummed out," Woods said later. "I felt I was playing well enough to make the cut. But you know, this is what happens when you hit the ball in the long grass. You're supposed to stay away from it."
Woods shot 74 in the opening round and was five over for the tournament when he pulled a one-iron from the tee into the left rough at the 453-yard 3rd hole. While hitting a wedge to the fairway, Woods said later, "something tweaked" in his left wrist.
At the 5th and 6th tees he hit drivers into the rough and reached the point where he could no longer grip the club without pain. Seeing his father, Earl, standing behind the gallery ropes, Woods indicated he couldn't go on, informed his playing partners, Price and Els, that he had to withdraw, and headed to the clubhouse in a golf cart. He was seven over at the time.
"This is just like a teenager who hasn't matured physically, that's all," said Earl Woods of his 19-year-old son. Indeed, Tiger weighs only 145 pounds, having lost 10 pounds recently from a bout of food poisoning that almost knocked him out of the NCAAs, and may not be able to take the constant pounding of a full schedule. Some are saying the Stanford freshman should turn professional and cash in now before his body gives out.
Woods stayed around Shinnecock for the weekend so that he could receive treatment from the Tour's physical therapists, and he hoped to play the Northeast Amateur this week in Rhode Island. "I'm wiry to begin with," said Woods. "If you look at me, I'm not very big. But [the physical therapists] say the one good thing is I am young, and people who are young do heal quickly."
Before injuring his wrist, Woods put on a long-driving exhibition at Shinnecock. At this year's Masters he averaged 311 yards per drive and in practice rounds was easily outdistancing Greg Norman and Fred Couples. At the Open, Woods averaged 300 yards on Thursday, and even with the bad wrist, his drives at the 5th and 6th holes on Friday were measured at 290 and 250 yards, respectively.
"He's up there with John Daly," Price said. "I don't know where he gets his power, but he launches it like a rocket. Ernie and I felt powerless. He certainly doesn't play like a 19-year-old."