It is, of course, premature to speculate about Tiger Woods’ future in the wake of his horrific accident and the hours of surgery he underwent Tuesday on his shattered right leg.
The 45-year-old Woods’ well-being and quality of life with his children take precedence over anything else.
But what Woods’ frightening accident did was push the day when golf will go on with him no longer competing closer to reality. Like, really close.
Woods’ accident, too, has led to a lot of reflection about what he has done for the game, where he has taken it and how his presence has affected so many around it.
The PGA Tour would not be what it is today — the powerful financial machine that has lined the pockets of its players with $100 bills thanks to the sponsorships that followed Woods’ remarkable game-changing excellence.
The corporate event for Discovery and Golf TV that Woods reportedly was rushing to get to when he crashed his courtesy SUV just south of Los Angeles would not have been taking place had it not been for what he has brought to the game. Because without Woods, there almost certainly would be no such thing as Golf TV.
Woods, with the attention he brought to golf, changed the entire landscape of the sport, carried it from the fringes to the mainstream.
“He’s a transcendent human being, he’s iconic,’’ PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday from Florida, where he made a special trip to the WGC-Workday Championship to speak to the players about Woods and be there for them.
If you don’t believe Woods transcended golf, dial up Twitter and take note of the people who’ve posted encouraging tweets for him, beginning with the two most recent former U.S. Presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
The most elite athletes from sports other than golf as well as the entertainment world reached out — Magic Johnson, Michael Phelps, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Mike Tyson, Stephen Curry, Alex Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, O.J. Simpson, Kevin Hart, even Cher.
These tributes were in addition to the long list of fellow golfers who posted prayers and well wishes.
“Just look at the way the world has responded,’’ Monahan said. “I mean the world. His impact is profound, his impact is perpetual.’’
The reality of Tuesday’s frightening incident is that Woods’ perpetual impact as a player now seems like a long shot to happen again.
“It’s probably a thought that no one wants to think about at the moment,’’ Tyrrell Hatton said Wednesday.
“We were all sort of heading in that direction where Tiger wasn’t going to be a part of the game [as a player],’’ Rory McIlroy said Wednesday. “I’m not saying that was soon. But it’s inevitable that one day he won’t be a part of it, and that’s something that the game of golf and the Tour is going to have to adapt to.’’
Indeed, Woods has played just 10 tournaments since the beginning of 2020. Since 2016, he has played only 41 events.
“It may be the end of seeing the genius at work with a club in his hand, but there’s still a lot of other ways that he can affect the game in a great way,’’ McIlroy said.
Woods’ genius elicited conflicting emotions. Early in his career, he owned a determination to not let any outsiders into his world that rivaled his determination to destroy his opponents on the golf course. That sometimes made him a difficult person for which to root.
During his most dominant years, while winning his first 14 majors, Woods seemed almost inhuman, his destruction of opposing players, courses and the record books almost robotic. Sometimes, you wondered if he was extracting any joy from it all.
It wasn’t until after Woods self-detonated his personal life with the infidelity scandal in 2009, followed by a series of back injuries that robbed him of two years’ of tournament play and then the embarrassing 2017 DUI arrest on the side of the road stoned on pain killers, that he became more humanized.
Since his 2017 spinal fusion surgery, which finally freed up his back and allowed him to compete and excel again, Woods, humbled by what he missed by having the game taken away from him, has allowed himself to become close with the younger generation of players.
Woods 2.0 has shown an embraceable side we never saw when he was crushing the competition. Even the most hardened of Woods skeptics had to have felt some emotion when he won the 2019 Masters and his two children, Sam and Charlie, melted into his arms alongside the 18th green at Augusta.
If Woods isn’t able to come back to play again, it’ll be a shame, because it felt like we were just getting to know him.