With no return date in sight, the end may be nigh for Tiger Woods. And while Rory McIlroy was one of the first players to openly suggest that the 14-time major was one of those on the back nine in the big game, he sounded distraught to hear Woods admit that he has no clue when he might return after his most recent back surgery.
Speaking in Nassau in the Bahamas in the build up to his season-ending charity event, the Hero World Challenge, Woods admitted he has nothing to look forward to right now bar getting fit enough to play with his children following a microdiscectomy operation in September, his third in all.
“I have no answer for that. Neither does my surgeon or my physio,” the world No 400 said when asked when he'd return to competition. “That’s the hardest part for me is there’s really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build towards.”
McIlroy does need to look around in vain for Woods at majors to know that after a 20-year career, we've probably seen the best of Woods. But he still sounded pained at the thought of losing his hero and took to Instagram to express his feelings.
"Wishing my idol and friend a speedy recovery," McIlroy wrote. "Golf without him doesn't bear thinking about. Hope to see you back on the course soon @tigerwoods"
Woods' stark reality comes just days after LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant announced his retirement at the end of the season, citing physical fatigue as the deciding factor.
Woods does not turn 40 until the end of this month but he's unlikely to turn out to be another Vijay Singh or even a Pádraig Harrington. who won this year at the age of 43.
Like Harrington, Woods knows that anything he achieves from here on in is going to be a bonus.
“I think pretty much everything beyond this has been ‑‑ will be gravy,” Woods said., who has 14 career majors among his 79 PGA TOUR victories.
“I've passed Jack (Nicklaus) in the all‑time win list, just shy of Sam (Snead). I passed Sam basically a decade ago in major championships but I'm still shy of Jack's.
"So I've had a pretty good career for my 20s and 30s. For my 20 years out here I think I've achieved a lot, and if that's all it entails, then I've had a pretty good run.
“But I'm hoping that's not it. I'm hoping that I can get back out here and compete against these guys. I really do miss it.”
When Harrington opened his mini museum at Stackstown a few years ago, it felt like the beginning of the end, even if he didn't agree.
If that was it, well that's fine, was Harrington's take. He already felt he had overachieved and Woods, it appears, is happy with his lot too.