WASHINGTON (TIP): Tiger Woods reaches his 40th birthday on Wednesday, still recovering from a third back operation with no timetable for another golf comeback and reflective comments about ending his epic career.
Former world number one Woods has 14 major titles, four shy of the all-time record set by Jack Nicklaus, and 79 PGA victories, three off the career best held by Sam Snead.
But to become lost in the numbers is to miss the point of what Woods has meant to golf, a unique talent who in his moment might just have been the world’s greatest sport star, the first black man to win a major golf crown sparking “Tiger-mania” and generating a curiosity from fans beyond golf long after his greatest days were behind him.
There’s an old saying that life begins at 40. Time to set aside childish dreams, like matching a boyhood idol, and lift up your children as you revel in what you have achieved.
But Woods said last week he feels at times like a teen and at others far beyond his years due to injuries.
“Mentally, people who know me know I’m like a five-year-old. Physically, sometimes I feel old and sometimes I feel like a teenager,” Woods said.
“I don’t like the polar opposites of the two. I’d like to be somewhere in the middle where I feel 40.”
Woods has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open, in which he limped through a playoff on a broken leg to beat Rocco Mediate.
He has been through four knee surgeries, three back operations and a messy sex scandal. Once-mighty shots might only be memories. Forget record runs. Just playing, let alone winning any event, seems a distant goal now.
“There’s really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build towards,” Woods said at his foundation’s Hero World Challenge event earlier this month. “Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know.