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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 10, 2010

Tiger Woods blames injury on too much practice

By Bob Ford
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA When Tiger Woods cracked up his car at the end of the driveway on Thanksgiving night, the golfer came away from the wreck with a long list of personal and professional collateral damage some of which is still up on the lift in his private repair shop and, more tangibly, he sustained a split lip and a sore neck.

Fast-forward through the last five months, as Woods dealt with the messy unraveling of his world, still executed a reasonably quick return to golf, and now is forced to withdraw mid-round from a major tournament because of ... a neck injury.

It doesn't take "CSI: Sawgrass" to formulate a theory that the two things car crash, neck injury just might be related, and that the events of that night carry additional consequences that are a long way from over for Woods.

"Zero connection. Absolutely zero," Woods said Monday when asked about the coincidence. "I just started practicing a lot ... and my body wasn't ready for it."

He answered the question at a news conference to promote the AT&T National, which will be played at Aronimink on July 1-4. Some of the proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation, which does admirable charity work for young people.

For the last three years, the tournament has been at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. It was moved to Aronimink for 2010 and 2011 as Congressional begins a major refurbishing before holding the 2011 U.S. Open.

That's not the only change. At the previous tournaments, Woods served as the "host" of the event. That will not be the case this time around, mostly because AT&T dropped Woods as a spokesman earlier this year, as did a number of other paying customers.

Sure, it is a little awkward, but Woods will show up to raise money for his foundation, even if there are signs everywhere promoting a company that thinks he is bad for business.

Woods hardly has a choice in the matter. How could he not show up? In the same way, how could he not say the sore neck in November and the sore neck in May are unrelated? He's a pretty good golfer, but he's not a doctor, and the injury will get its first real look today when he undergoes a magnetic resonance imaging test in Orlando.

Until he walked off the course at the Players Championship on Sunday, less than midway through the final round, he had kept the condition a secret. Since beginning to experience the pain at the end of March, Woods has treated his neck with anti-inflammatory drugs, massage, and manipulation therapy and even suspended the area in traction.

"It's very sharp pain, and it's been this way since before the Masters," he said. "The pain I can deal with. But when it spasms, I can't physically move my neck. You can't make a golf swing if you can't turn."

What the MRI reveals will determine whether Woods' brief return to golf will be interrupted and whether he will actually be able to play a tournament in the Philadelphia area for the first time in his career. If there is a bulging disk or other structural problem that requires surgery, he will miss some time. It will be another unforeseen setback in a life that, until late November, had far more successes than failures.

Coming back from an injury is less complicated than coming back from being transformed into an international punch line, which is what happened when his myriad marital infidelities came to light. Both are comebacks, though, and whether these are intertwined is a question that got an answer, but no one knows if it was an honest one.

"I've dealt with other things in my life where people said I was pretty much done, and come back," Woods said. "So the whole idea is to keep fighting every day. All I can do is fight today."

There are still other fights out there, on and off the golf course, and Woods is apparently intent on going the distance in all of them. Part of what made him a champion is that stubborn resolve. He won the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg, so don't expect a neck injury and an occasional heckler to stop him now.

"There are a lot of things going on in my life, period," Woods said. "I'm just trying to get everything in a harmonious spot, and that's not easy to do. I'm trying to make life changes and trying to do that under the microscope of everyone asking me and watching everything I do. That doesn't make it easy."

But easy isn't on the menu when you wreck your car on a strange night and the world peers into the windshield to inspect the damage. The only thing Tiger Woods can really be sure of is that his life will never be the same. Some of the pain subsides, but some lingers, and some can go straight from the driveway to the driving range.