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The Way It Was Is Gone

By Ron Green Jr. – Global Golf Post

There is a passage in The Great Gatsby when Nick Carraway, the narrator, is talking with Jay Gatsby, who is obsessed with the past and the love of his life, Daisy.

Nick tells Gatsby, “You can’t repeat the past.”

“Can’t repeat the past?” Gatsby says. “Why of course you can …

“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before. She’ll see.”

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This came to mind Friday morning when Tiger Woods announced that he will not play the Genesis Open this week outside Los Angeles nor the Honda Classic next week in South Florida due to the back spasms that prompted him to withdraw after one round of the recent Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Gatsby never got Daisy back and we’ll probably never again see Tiger as he was.

It doesn’t in any way diminish Woods’ magnificence in his extended prime. No one has ever played better golf than Woods did – Jack Nicklaus has said that – but what we get today seems like the smoke from a distant fire.

Just when we’ll see Tiger playing again remains an open-ended question. Maybe at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in a month? It’s just a guess.

Woods was going to play four tournaments in a five-week span, reimmersing himself in the game with one eye on Augusta in April where magic sometimes blooms with the azaleas.

Instead, he played three tournament rounds – 76-72 at Torrey Pines and a clunky-looking 77 in Dubai – before shutting himself down again.

If you take the announcement on Woods’ website for what it says, maybe this is a short-term break taken upon doctor’s orders to allow the back spasms to calm down.

“This is not what I was hoping for or expecting,” Woods said in the statement.

Tiger’s schedule, according to the website, will be determined after his back is reassessed.

Woods’ announcement was more disappointing than surprising. Though he didn’t play well at Torrey Pines or Dubai, it mattered that he was playing again. He had a grace period to find his game.

There were questions surrounding his return and one of them was whether Woods was overextending himself by playing so much golf in such a compressed window of time. In his prime, he rarely played four weeks in five and he intended to do it after being away for more than a year.

He said he wanted to find out how his body would hold up. Now he knows.

It’s awkward with Woods now because there is the temptation to write him off, to say it’s over, the fat lady has done her solo, he’s a broken shell of the golfer he once was. All of those may be true but I hope not.

Not yet.

That time comes for every athlete who competes at whatever level fits them. Eventually, it will even come for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, though he’s stiff-arming time better than most.

Maybe Tiger’s time has arrived. At some point – perhaps that invisible line was passed in the 17 months when he was away – the equation doesn’t add up any more. No matter how much work, no matter how much will, no matter how deep the desire, the physical reality is too much to overcome.

Woods has earned the opportunity to go out on his terms, when he wants and how he wants. He’s never seemed like the type who will fade away, more like the guy who will decide one day he’s had enough, tell the world then go on to Chapter Two.

It may not be up to him, however. Cranky backs, like golf, aren’t always fair. In Dubai, Woods looked uncomfortable playing the game he once ruled. He looked old, at least in golf years.

Talking with Peter Dawson, the former R&A chief, in Dubai, Woods said, “I don’t think I’ll ever feel great,” citing his three back surgeries and four knee operations.

“It’s just the way it is,” Woods told Dawson. “But as long as I can function, and function at a good enough level, then I’m fine with that.”

It’s strange to hear Woods speak in something less than absolutes. For years, he was always about winning, about doing the most, being the best, accomplishing what no one else seemed capable of doing.

Now he wants to function “at a good enough level.” That’s the 41-year-old Tiger, the guy who said just more than a year ago that whatever happens from here is gravy.

Maybe he has accepted limits that weren’t there before. Given the way he looked and talked and played in the Bahamas in December, the spark was back.

Now this.

It brings to mind the end of The Great Gatsby when the narrator talks of Gatsby’s belief that “tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms farther … and one fine morning –

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

A beautiful ending to a beautiful book.

Meanwhile, we wait and wonder how Tiger’s story ends.

Republished with permission by Global Golf Post.