US Open champion Graeme McDowell fears for Tiger Woods’ future in the game.
The 14-time major winner pulled out of next week’s major test at Congressional citing lingering left knee and Achilles’ tendon problems and McDowell is among those wondering if he will ever be the same again.
“Will he be back? Nobody knows at the minute - there’s obviously a lot going on,” McDowell told Sky Sports News. “His mental health is one question and his physical health is now another.
“Golf needs him. He has been golf for the last 15 years.”
Already down to 15th in the world and winless since his marital infidelities came to light at the end of 2009, Woods decided to pull out on medical advice in the hope that short term pain will lead to long term gain..
It’ll be the first time since 1994, when three time winner Woods was still at school, that he hasn’t played in the US Open.
But McDowell does not believe that there will be an asterisk after the winner’s name just because Woods is not playing.
McDowell said: “Whoever wins the US Open will not have an asterisk after their name saying Tiger wasn’t playing. There is still a big field full of great players fighting it out for that title and whoever wins it will have deserved it.
“Of course it’s a massive blow for the US Open - to not have one of the greatest players that’s ever lived is massive.”
Not that McDowell is surprised. On May 12, he tweeted from Sawgrass: “Just saw Tiger come limping by me in the locker room. Considering he’s supposed to be on the course I’m guessing that’s not a good sign…..”
He told Sky: “There have been question marks over his health for the last couple of months. When I saw him hobbling through the locker room at the Players Championship the warning signs were there.”
Woods was assured by doctors that he couldn’t do himself permanent damage if he played in the 2008 US Open while suffering from a ligament tear and stress fracture in his left leg.
He was oplaying superb golf at the time and his decision to take the risk paid off as he beat Rocco Mediate after a 19 hole play-off to win the most recent of his 14 major titles.
His injuries problems have mounted in recent years and this season he hurt himself when he slipped as he play from pine needles under the Eisenhower Tree in the third round of the Masters.
He finished fourth there for the second year in a row but has played just nine holes since then, taking 42 on the front nine in the first round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass four weeks ago before withdrawing.
Speculation is mounting about whether or not Woods’ left knee will go under the surgeon’s knife for a sixth time.
Like the rest of world golf, McDowell is wondering what the end story will be.
“Tiger plays his cards close to his chest and it’s pretty difficult to know what’s going on,” McDowell said, “but obviously this is a lot more serious than we thought.
“His quest to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record is one of the great golf stories and we hope he gets better soon.”