Did Johnny Miller have Tiger Woods figured out all along?
Tiger Woods turns 40 next week, and looking back on the last decade, who would have predicted it would come to this — stuck on 14 majors, his career on hold and possibly in jeopardy?
Johnny Miller, for one.
Miller, the opinionated and sometimes controversial NBC analyst, authored a book, “I Call the Shots,” (with Golf Digest’s Guy Yocom) that was published in May of 2004. The bulk of it likely was written, then, in 2003, when Woods was in the process of winning five tournaments to lead the PGA Tour in victories for the fifth straight year.
Miller wrote a segment entitled, “The Trouble with Physical Conditioning,” in which he discussed the danger of “the big muscle swing” and “the enormous stress it places on your lower back.
“The feeling among players is that they have to strengthen their bodies in order to withstand the stress the modern swing puts on their bodies. That’s one reason David Duval and Tiger Woods decided to hit the weights…There are more injuries taking place in the gym these days than are made public.”
Many have suggested that Woods’ over-training (including military training) make him susceptible to the injuries that have ground his career to a halt.
He also has a chapter entitled “Can Tiger Catch Jack? The Case for an Emphatic ‘No.’” Among his arguments: “If Tiger were to suffer a serious physical problem, such as a bad L5 vertebrae…it could change the whole ballgame for him.”
Woods underwent a second microdiscectomy on his lower back (where the L5 vertebrae is located), then required a followup procedure in late October. At the Hero World Challenge he hosted in December, he said there is no timetable for his return. “The hardest part for me is there's really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build towards,” he said. “Where's the light at the end of the tunnel?”
Now, some would argue that it’s not a stretch to predict back issues for players. But, again, this was Miller writing in 2003, a year when Woods’ only injury problem was with his knee.
Other pertinent points:
— Miller wrote that “Tiger suffers a recurring problem for which he has yet to find an answer.” He was referring to Woods getting stuck on the downswing. “If he fixes it, the sky is the limit. If he doesn’t then his chances of upsetting my predication narrow even further…But in regards to his being recognized as the greatest player of all time, hands down, this mechanical problem is a make or break thing for him.”
— “Tiger is older than his birth certificate implies. I realize he’s only twenty-eight, but competitively he’s an old twenty-eight….Like everybody else, he’s slowly accumulating bits of scar tissue from small disappointments and putts that burn the edge of the hole and don’t fall.”
He’ll soon be 40. Presumably, if Miller’s position holds, he’ll be an old 40 competitively.