Tiger Woods (189487)

Special to the AmNews

Seven weeks from now, the world’s best golfers will converge at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Ga., for the Masters Tournament. It was there, 19 years ago, that Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods won his first major, by a tournament record 12 strokes and at 21-years-old, becoming the youngest golfer ever to don the champion’s illustrious green jacket.

He went on to win three more Masters and a total of 14 majors, second only to the great Jack Nicklaus’s 18. Yet, it is unlikely that Woods will be a contender for this year’s Masters and dubious that he will even tee-off at all.

For most of the past 10 years, Woods has battled extensive back and knee injuries that have put his quest to surpass Nicklaus’s celebrated record in peril. Earlier this week, his agent, Mark Steinberg, in an email to USA Today Sports, vehemently responded to Twitter postings by an author of a book on Woods, alleging the 40-year-old had experienced a setback in his rehabilitation from back surgery.

“The tweets that appeared this weekend about Tiger’s health are ridiculous and absolutely false,” communicated Steinberg. “It’s reprehensible that every few months, someone makes something up and it’s treated like a real story.”

Woods has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and had only 11 starts last year because of injuries. But he is still the most compelling and well-known figure in golf and moves the television ratings needle like few other stars of any genre. So his absence from the links is palpable, as Woods remains a global sports and cultural icon.

No one knows for sure, certainly not Woods himself, if he’ll ever reclaim his form and capture another major. But what is absolute is even with gifted young stars Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory Mcllroy sensationally marking the golf landscape, the game is a lot less captivating with Woods on the mend.