Tiger Woods announced last week that he is returning to the PGA Tour. After 14 months away, Tiger was set to make his return at the Safeway Open.
But then...he withdrew.
Much has been made of Tiger's golfing career. From his march toward Jack Nicklaus' Major record, to his personal life, to his overall health and battle with injuries, Tiger has been in the spotlight his entire career. Last week was no different, as Woods announced that the wait was over, and he was returning to play. Social Media lit up, and tickets to the Safeway Open spiked.
But then he backed out.
The announcement yesterday that he wasn't going to play came as a shock to many in the golf world. Woods claimed that his game simply wasn't up to his standards, and if Tiger Woods can't compete at the highest level (which one has to assume means the level he was at when he won four straight Majors), then why even bother, right?
He stated that his body is good, and it was not the reason for pulling out of this week's tournament, but one has to wonder if that's actually true. I'll argue that while he might not feel any pain, his body isn't good at all.
I have studied Tiger's swing, studied his body, and studied his function (notice I didn't say his "swing mechanics"), and it all adds up to exactly what he has experienced to this point: pain and suffering.
While Tiger will argue that his body is good, and he is physically able to return to the game he loves, I don't believe he has done anything to get to the root cause of his injuries (and I believe they all have a singular root cause). I also believe that he and those he surrounds himself with have turned a blind eye to just how connected all his injuries are. Just to refresh your memory, take a look at the list of Tiger's injuries and see if anything jumps out at you:
October 1994: Left knee surgery
December 13, 2002: Left knee surgery
August 2007: Ruptured left ACL
August 2008: Left knee surgery
May 2008: Stress fracture in left tibia
June 2008: Surgery on left ACL
2008: Tore right Achilles tendon
May 2010: Inflamed facet joint in neck
May 2011: Sprain of left MCL and left Achilles tendon
March 2012: Left Achilles injury
June 2013: Left elbow strain
March 2014: Lower back spasms, then back surgery
August 2014: Lower back pain
September 2015: Microdiscectomy surgery
October 2015: Microdiscectomy surgery again
Notice a trend? Of the 15 injuries listed, nine are on his left side, and five (the neck pain and the recent low back symptoms) aren't specified. Only one--the right Achilles tendon injury in 2008--is specific to his right side. In other words, over 90% of his injuries are either on the left side or not specified to be on the right side of his body. Is there a link to these injuries? Is this trend significant? Should we make anything out of the majority of his injures being left-sided? I believe the answer to all of these questions to be "yes."
What's the one common denominator among these injuries? The answer: Tiger. Tiger is the link. His body is the one wild card in his golf swing. He works and works to hone his swing. He has worked with some of the top swing instructors. He has the best equipment in the game. Yet it's his body that continually lets him down. Throughout Tiger's career, his body, and more specifically his left side, has been screaming at him, alerting him to the fact that something isn't right. Something is off.
Sadly, Tiger has largely missed the mark when it comes to his therapy and rehab. Everything he has done has been focused on the site of the injury rather than the source of the injury. From what I have seen of Tiger and his overall function, his hips have completely shut down. It's crucial that he (and you, for that matter) remember the hips are both the basis of support for the upper half, while simultaneously being the driver of the lower half. And golf is very much an upper-half/lower-half game. The more the golfer can separate (disassociate) his upper and lower half, the better the swing, the greater the power, the farther the drive, etc. Rather than Tiger being able to disassociate his upper body from his lower body using his hips, other parts have started to take up the slack. In my opinion, his lumbar spine has become the genesis for rotation, not his hips. As his his hips have lost function, a painful domino effect has been triggered. His Achilles, knees, low back, elbow, and neck have all suffered the consequences. But these injuries aren't a death-sentence. Quite the opposite, actually,. Tiger has a chance to regain control of his health. He can restore function to his load joints. Specifically, he needs to start by restoring full function and range of motion to the hips, and all of these injuries will be a thing of the past. But if he remains symptom-driven (rather than cause-driven), he can kiss his career goodbye, if it's not already gone.
QUESTION: What is your opinion on all of Tiger's injuries?
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While some might hear that Tiger was hurting and become alarmed, for me that was not the most alarming portion of Tiger’s press conference. No, the most alarming statement in Tiger’s post-round presser was how he ended it.
“This is my offseason right now,” Woods said. “It will be nice. I got lots of soccer games and practices to go to, so I’ll be doing that and just working out, training and trying to get more fit” (emphasis added).
Trying to get more fit…
Trying to get more fit…
Trying to get more fit…
It’s like a bad dream. Those words keep repeating in my head.
Trying to get more fit? Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Tiger is the fittest golfer I’ve ever seen as well as the greatest golfer I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
It can be argued that the game of golf hasn’t seen another golfer as dominant as Tiger, and the game may never see his level of dominance again (although I believe we all need to stay tuned to Jordan Spieth’s career).
Tiger doesn’t need to “get more fit.”
Let’s be honest, golf isn’t a get-more-fit kind of sport. When thinking about the greats of the game–guys like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Lee Travino–and their respective levels of fitness, with all due respect, those guys don’t look like they just got finished competing in a Mr. Olympia contest. While golf can be a fit-man’s game, golf isn’t just a fit-man’s game. I mean, come on, Craig Stadler’s nickname is “The Walrus” for crying out loud.
You see, this isn’t about “fitness,” Tiger. This is about imbalance. It’s about the body’s ability to swing a golf club. More specifically, this article is about your body’s ability to swing a golf club around your structural dysfunctions. The body is so good at getting you through the swing that the motion is accomplished, often times, despite the physical consequences. That’s exactly what your body has done. The average TV viewer sees you’re swinging a golf club just fine, but I see that your functional limitations are preventing you from doing it pain free. If you’ll allow me to make a comparison to Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick, in Top Gun — You’re writing checks your body can’t cash.
Let me cut to the chase, Tiger: Your level of fitness has nothing to do with how good or bad your golf game is. Instead, it has everything to do with your lack of proper hip function which has started a cascade of structural “events” throughout your body. If you haven’t already, take a minute and read about The Importance of the Hip Flexor. If you choose not to read that article, just remember one thing: If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Just like mom reigns supreme at home, the hip flexor and its function reign supreme in the body. Whether that body belongs to a pro golfer, an attorney, an entrepreneur, or a high schooler who plays piccolo in the marching band, proper hip function, specifically hip flexor function, is the key to a pain free life.
While Tiger didn’t specify which hip was hurting him, it honestly doesn’t matter. Both hips need to be balanced. My hips need to be balanced. Your hips need to be balanced. We would all benefit from bilaterally functioning hips.
Tiger thinks that the Ferrari he calls his body will perform better if he simply increases the horsepower of the engine. What’s true is that he instead needs to get the frame straight. Only then will the “Ferrari” perform as it’s designed to perform.
Tiger, this offseason, don’t get “fit.” Get balanced.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on Tiger’s latest injury?