In the golf world, everything revolves around Tiger Woods. Is he healthy? How healthy is he? Will he play the Masters? What exactly is wrong with his back? How much longer does he have? These are the questions from which all other questions flow, and this is how it should be when you have an all-time superstar like Woods still winning major championships.
Now, we have dovetailed the massive Tiger questions with even bigger questions of when exactly golf will start again and what that might mean for Tiger when it does. As of March 23, golf tournaments have either been postponed or canceled through the end of May due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the globe. The first potential tournament to serve as the return of the sport is the Charles Schwab Challenge just a few weeks ahead of the U.S. Open in the middle of June.
We haven't seen Woods since the Genesis Invitational in February. What this means is that — even in a best-case scenario in which golf re-started and Woods resurfaced at, say, the Memorial Tournament in June — we will have gone nearly four months without seeing Woods golf.
With a postponed Masters and PGA Championship and so much future ambiguity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (not to mention the ambiguity of Woods' health), we could be looking at potentially another lost season in a long string of them for Woods.
Since 2014, Woods has had just three years in which he played all four major championships. Barring a minor miracle in the scheduling department, this will not be a year in which he plays all four major championships because it seems unlikely at this point that all four major championships will be held.
This is significant. Woods recently turned 44, and any missed shots at majors at this stage of the game represent a critical blow to his effort in increasing his tally of 15 majors won.
While my initial reaction to the delay of the PGA Tour season was that this would be a good thing for Woods, who missed the one round of the Players Championship that was played because of a back that was "just not ready," I'm actually not so sure of this.
On one hand, Woods does have time to rest up without the grind of showing up for multiple events over the next few months. On the other hand, things will be tenuous for Woods, his back and his appearance at tournaments from now until he retires; this is just his new way of life. If that's true, then you don't want to be missing chances at major wins when you're as young as you're ever going to be.
Let's pretend for a moment that the calendar year in golf is over. A frustrating — but certainly plausible — scenario. That would mean Woods would be 45 the next time he tees it up at a major, presumably the 2021 Masters. At 45, you're starting to get into, "This has almost never happened" territory and certainly a spot where it's incredibly rare in the modern day. Only five golfers have ever won majors at the age of 45 or older. None have done so since Hale Irwin won the 1990 U.S. Open.
Part of the reason for this is because Woods ushered in a new era in which players are better at a younger age and are now the biggest threats to his quest. Woods is unlike anyone who has ever played this sport, but this is a tall task for him.
So while Woods might be fully healthy (whatever that means for him) next time we see him, he will have likely missed out on a big opportunity to turn that 15 into a 16. Depending on when golf returns, the coronavirus might be one more name you can add to the list of ever-growing opponents Woods has to defeat as his march for history continues.