Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest golfer in the history of the Professional Golfers’ Association, will tee off today in the World Golf Championships – Cadillac Championship. It’s noteworthy that the 38-year-old, who has won 79 PGA Tour titles and 14 major championships in his nearly two decade long career, just withdrew from the Honda Classic this past weekend in the final round — citing back spasms.
Many have accused Woods of bowing out of the weekend tournament simply for no longer being in contention. Woods now has six withdrawals in his career, but it is his fourth in the past five seasons. The last four withdrawals Woods has endured have been because of injury and during the final round of the tournament, so speculation isn’t out of nowhere here.
Despite all of the criticism he’s received, he figure’s to be a favorite to win at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami, Florida. The par 72 course was recently revamped and Woods, who won the tournament last season and seven times overall in his career (four at Doral), will tee off before having practiced a single hole. At stake is the number one spot on the world golf rankings, with Australian Adam Scott tight on Woods’ heels.
Staying healthy will be the key for Woods’ success over the next four days. He’s already undergoing intense treatment for his ailing back. “We’ve got to make sure that we do preventative things to make sure that it doesn’t happen and adjust certain things; whether it’s swing, lifting, whatever it may be, you have to make certain adjustments. We’ve done that throughout my entire career, and this is no different,” said Woods during Wednesdays’ media day news conference.
And despite the limited-field event, which has also been an area of speculation for why Woods is returning to play so soon after injuring himself, he will have to stave off several big-name opponents to keep his top rank. “He wouldn’t be coming down here if he didn’t intend to compete at the highest level,” said Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg. “He intends to play and wants to play well.”
He will have to. Americans Jimmy Walker, Dustin Johnson, Harris English, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Chris Kirk and Zach Johnson are all off to terrific starts in 2014 and are looking to take the championship’s $9 million purse. And then there is Rory McIlory, the Northern Irish golfer who struggled mightily in 2013 but looks to be playing much better of late. He is three under par through six holes at the time of this writing.
Woods can silence the crowd by playing well this weekend at Doral. But Woods never aims to play well; he aims to win it all. And if he does, you can be sure that his withdrawal this past weekend will be all but forgotten about.
VISUAL CONTEXT: NINE OF THE TOP TEN 2014 PGA TOUR EARNERS ARE FROM THE U.S.