Tiger Woods withdrew from the 2022 PGA Championship Saturday night. It is not a surprise. The surprise is that he was on the pitch at all. The surprise is that he struggled to come back from another disaster that would have ended his career. The surprise is that anyone at this point is still surprised by Tiger Woods.
The 2022 PGA Championship will forever have a “WD” next to Woods’ name, but that doesn’t begin to cover the significance of the week. Yes, he stumbled to a +12 on Saturday after a round of nine over. But after a run where he carded bogey or worse on seven of eight holes, he finished Southern Hills’ tough last four holes in one under to keep a fearsome 80 off his record. This, after making the cut by a shot after being a low side shot with seven holes to play on Friday. He roamed the Southern Hills by will alone, and the agony of each shot was clear in the lines in his face that deepened with each day.
Fifteen months ago to the day, Woods suffered catastrophic injuries in a single-car rollover in the early hours of the morning in Los Angeles. It was a devastating wreck – police approaching the scene feared Woods was dead and doctors initially thought he might lose his leg – followed by months of brutal physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Woods worked his way through this agony, silent except for the occasional choreographed social media leak, until he was ready to return to public view as a designed golf dad with precision and, later, to Augusta, as an eternally rebellious champion.
Why would he go through all that pain, all that effort, all those hours of relentless rehabilitation with no clear chance of success? Because he’s Tiger Woods, of course.
‘Cause he’s Tiger Woods. It’s an answer that both sidesteps the question and answers it completely, a classic case of if you know, you know.
How could a skinny 21-year-old kid carve Augusta National and win the Masters? Because he’s Tiger Woods.
How could this kid hold all four majors at once? Because he’s Tiger Woods.
How did he win a US Open with a broken leg? Because he’s Tiger Woods.
It also works the other way around. Why did he blow up his family life and tarnish his reputation forever? Because he’s Tiger Woods.
Why did he keep violating traffic laws, resulting in multiple crashes with more questions than answers? Because he’s Tiger Woods.
Why did he keep fans, other players, the media – anyone outside his inner circle – at bay, punishing and excommunicating anyone who violated his trust? Because he’s Tiger Woods.
Why does he keep fighting, fighting his way to top round after top round, long after any other player would have put the clubs in the cupboard for good? Because he’s Tiger Woods.
Why does it continue to attract more attention than the rest of the field combined? Because he’s Tiger Woods.
I already dumped dirt on Woods’ quarry coffin. “Here’s the cold truth: Retirement looms in Woods’ near future,” I once wrote, “a retirement brought about by a body broken and mended too many times, a mind that finally recognizes the inevitable sadness.” The date of this eulogy? February 10, 2017, more than five years ago. Spoiler: not only Woods do not retiring, he went out and won several tournaments, including another green jacket.
So no more grand statements about the end of the road, no more hot takes on the fact that we’ll never see Tiger win again. For starters, I wouldn’t bet five bucks that Woods will never win again, let alone guarantee it. After what we all saw in 2019 in Augusta, would you?
But the bigger point is this: Trophies aren’t really the end game anymore. Yes, Woods still wants to chase the Majors, still wants those other three to catch Jack Nicklaus. That’s why he won’t even bother with lower-tier PGA Tour events; he aims for the biggest game every time he plays.
Woods’ real victory didn’t come from being the last man standing on Sunday. It now comes from staying up on Sundays, going through the week when so many others – maybe everything others – would have called it a career.
“He’s the ultimate pro,” Rory McIlroy said after Friday’s round, where Woods fought his way under the cut line in one of the great battles of his career. “If it had been me I would have considered retiring and going home, but Tiger is different and he has proven he is different
Woods has been playing golf professionally for 25 years. He would have been a Hall of Famer had he retired after just five years. He has nothing left to prove to anyone but himself. Whenever he decides to retire — whether it’s next week or 40 years from now, and both are at stake — he will do so on his own terms.
Because he’s Tiger Woods.
Jay Busbee is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at [email protected]