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Woods' year: Open and shut

He will have knee surgery to repair torn ligament and will be out six to eight months. He also has a double stress fracture in his leg.

June 19, 2008|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer
  • Tiger Woods winces in pain as he follows through on his shot from the 15th tee in the third round of the U.S. Open.
Tiger Woods winces in pain as he follows through on his shot from the 15th… (ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images )

The last time we saw Tiger Woods in public was Monday afternoon as he limped toward the players' parking lot at Torrey Pines, and if all goes well, the next time we see him could be the same place -- next February.

Sometimes wincing, often limping, Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines with stress fractures in his leg, he revealed on his website Wednesday, where he also announced he would not play again this year because he needs surgery to repair a torn ligament in his troubled left knee. He also has a double stress fracture in his left tibia.

With recovery time from the surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament expected to range from six to eight months, it's possible that Woods could come back at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines the first week of February.

How the PGA Tour will fare without Woods, its champion breadwinner and billboard face, for an extended period is far from a positive scenario.

"For an athlete as talented and as competitive as Tiger Woods, taking the rest of the season off must have been an incredibly difficult, yet necessary decision, one that we understand and support completely," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement. "The fact that he needed additional surgery only makes his performance and victory at last week's U.S. Open all the more impressive."

When the surgery will take place has not been made public, but when it occurs, it will be Woods' third surgical procedure on his knee in the last five years.

His most recent surgery was done by Thomas Rosenberg in Park City, Utah, on April 15, two days after Woods finished second at the Masters. Rosenberg repaired cartilage damage.

In 2002, Woods had fluid drained from around the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and also had a benign cyst removed.

The ACL surgery is probably the least of Woods' problems with his left knee, according to Dr. Neal ElAttrache, director of sports medicine with the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic and the team doctor for the Dodgers.

"His pressing problem is cartilage damage on the lateral side of his knee under his kneecap," ElAttrache said. "ACL's can be fixed and stabilized, but the cartilage surface of the joint, that's unforgiving.

"It can sometimes be improved by doing microfracture surgery, but that part of his knee is always going to take a beating. This will be something he deals with the rest of his career."

ElAttrache said that many times athletes in Woods' situation must have their knees drained during competition.

"Knees tend to over-lubricate themselves because of the damage to the cartilage that leads to excessive swelling. I wouldn't be surprised if they drained it."

Added ElAttrache: "He's got a lot of healing to do."

On his website, Woods said, "I know much was made of my knee throughout last week and it was important to me to disclose my condition publicly at an appropriate time. I wanted to be respectful of the USGA and their incredibly hard work and make sure the focus was on the U.S. Open. Now it is clear that the right thing to do is listen to my doctors, follow through with my surgery and focus my attention on rehabilitating my knee."

Woods will end the 2008 season with five victories in the seven events he played worldwide, four of them on the PGA Tour.

He won't be able to add to his total of 14 major titles -- four short of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 -- until sometime in 2009. He has never missed a major as a professional.

Woods will miss not only the British Open in July at Royal Birkdale and the PGA Championship in August at Oakland Hills in Michigan, but also the Ryder Cup in September at Valhalla in Kentucky.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger said the focus should be on Woods' health instead of the upcoming international match-play event.

"This should not be about Tiger and the Ryder Cup now," Azinger said in a statement released by the PGA of America. "This is about Tiger's health and well-being and his march to history."

Woods' victory at the U.S. Open over five days and 91 holes was his most memorable major title, he said afterward, and can probably be viewed as even more remarkable because of the extent of Woods' injuries.

Woods tore the ligament in his left knee while jogging 10 months ago, after the British Open, but chose not to have surgery. He incurred the double stress fracture in his left tibia two weeks before the Open at Torrey Pines and ignored his doctors' advice to take six weeks off.

Despite playing with a torn knee ligament, Woods finished 2007 with five victories in six events, including his Target World Challenge. He also won his first four events this year, including the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour.

Woods has won 10 times in the 13 tournaments he has played since tearing his ACL.

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