Tiger Woods, as the puny ratings for the recently completed Masters and countless news items can attest, skipped his annual trip to Augusta for the first time in 20 years. And while it appears that the inactive and yet somehow still top-ranked player in the world will likely miss June’s U.S. Open and perhaps the rest of the 2013-2014 season, he may be ready to team up with Presidents Cup partner Matt Kuchar for some new-fangled event in October called the Americas Cup.
"I'm working on it," Woods agent Mark Steinberg told Bob Harig at Augusta National after one of his healthy clients, Kuchar, finished T5 at the Masters. "There's several things being discussed, and I would say it's likely but we are trying to put something together."
The team event, about which little is known, including its format (though we suspect a lucrative appearance fee awaits the sidelined superstar), has been slated for October 21-October 25 in South America, according to Harig.
Woods, who has not played competitively since carding that 78 in the final round at Doral on March 9, underwent back surgery late last month to fix a herniated disc. While Woods said at the time he hoped to return to the PGA Tour in the summer, the one member of Team Tiger apparently allowed to discuss his friend’s condition cautioned the golf world not to expect Woods to be ready to play in the men’s national championship.
"I’ve been in contact with him this week. He missed being at Augusta and certainly was watching the tournament," Notah Begay, Woods’ teammate at Stanford and ongoing confidante, said on CBS Radio on Monday. "I think he needs to give [his rehab] a minimum of 90 days to make sure that scar tissue heals up appropriately and he doesn’t run the risk of re-injuring it. So that would push him past the U.S. Open."
The 38-year-old Woods recognizes the shelf life for his aging and oft-injured body has an expiration date, but he still has his sights set on two records that would end the debate about whether he closes out his career as the best golfer ever.
"Oh definitely. He’s well aware of that," Begay said about his pal’s realistic view about his advancing years. "It’s certainly not a big secret. It’s not something that he’s trying to ignore ... He realizes that he’s approaching 40."
Photo credit: Ross Kinnaird
About the targets Woods has taken aim at -- Sam Snead’s 82 all-time tour wins and Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major titles -- Begay believes Tiger can attain at least one and make a run at the other when (if?) he regains his fitness.
"He only needs four more to surpass [Snead’s mark] ," Begay said, "so that’s pretty much a lock if he can stay somewhat healthy for the next two or three years."
Surpassing Nicklaus will be a more daunting proposition for the 14-time major winner.
"[That’s a] little bit loftier considering he hasn’t won a major since 2008," Begay said. "The window’s closing. He’s much closer to the end of his career."
Noting that many pundits were surprised by 43-year-old Phil Mickelson's missed cut Friday at Augusta, Begay said he would be surprised if a healthy Woods were to do the same any time soon but conceded such an unthinkable outcome loomed in his buddy’s future.
"I don’t anticipate that happening to Tiger for quite some time," Begay said, "but there’s a time and place where the game just decides it’s not your moment anymore."