By Jim • 

Sports Fan: Tiger's bid for 15th major derailed again

Golf's number one player, at the age of 38, has undergone several knee surgeries in recent years, and the pinched nerve that led to the March 31 microdiscetory, a procedure in which a small portion of the bone over the nerve root and/or disc material from under the root is removed to relieve neural impingement and provide more room for the nerve to heal, is just one more derailment from his goal.

Given sufficient time and rest, the problem could have been resolved without surgery, but the procedure speeds up the healing process, meaning that Tiger should be ready to go some time this summer. But with proper training and practice following his recovery from the surgery, that might postpone his return to golf until after the second major of the season, the U.S. Open, which will be played at Pinehurst No. 2 June 12-15.

Just two years shy of his 40th birthday, Woods already has a history of physical ailments, several of which led to knee operations, but his greatest challenge, that of replacing Jack Nicklaus as the all-time leader in majors' wins (Jack had 18, Tiger 14) and surpassing Sam Snead as the all-time PGA tournament winner (Sam had 82, Tiger 79), just might be more than he can overcome.

That's not only because of his age but also because of the young guns and a number of veterans who can give Tiger a real cat fight in any tournament. In fact, the field seems to be improving every year, and as many as 20-25 golfers can now compete for event titles on a regular basis.

Tiger is no longer the threat he was when he won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open. While he's come close several times since then and has been in the top six in the Masters for a number of years, he's no longer the longest hitter or most accurate with his drives. Even his famed putting stroke has left him at times, and his formerly uncanny shot-making skills are sometimes... well, not so uncanny.

Yes, the field has closed the gap, and with his history of injuries tossed into the mix, Tiger might have a difficult time winning even his 15th major let alone 19th — although Nicklaus said recently that he feels Tiger has 10 good years ahead of him to win five more and pass the Golden Bear at the top of the list.

The big problem for Tiger, though, is not the young guns or Phil Mickelson's, Adam Scott's or Rory McIlroy's. It's Tiger himself, with his "Big Swing" technique requiring full torque, resulting in wear to his back, knees and shoulders.

Sure, I'd love to be looking back 10 years down the line and say that I watched Tiger accumulate enough majors' wins to surpass Jack, arguably one of the top one or two professional golfers of all time, but realistically, I don't see it happening. While he might get one or two, I don't see five or even four to tie Jack. Without too much of a challenge, he'll pass Slammin' Sammy with more than 82 victories (remember: Tiger won five times last year) to top that all-time list, but when he finally fades into the sunset five, ten or fifteen years down the line, I don't believe he will retire with the all-time majors' banner hanging from the World Golf Hall of Fame... at least not with his name on it.

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