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Stephen Gallacher: New fears about Tiger Woods’ health make for worrying reading

Surgeon claims it could be up to a year before Tiger is fit again.

Tiger Woods underwent fusion surgery in New York last week. Image: PA
Tiger Woods underwent fusion surgery in New York last week. Image: PA

The clock is ticking for Tiger Woods and I find my fears of whether we’ll see him back again increasing with each passing story about him.

Former tour professional turned surgeon Dr Bill Mallon, who played on the PGA Tour in the 1970s, told the Bunkered podcast he fears Tiger’s subtalar fusion surgery on his right foot could keep him out for as long as year.

The doctor didn’t beat about the bush, adding he doesn’t think Tiger will win another tournament due to the fact he has had five back surgeries and a foot fusion, not to mention problems with his other foot.

I’ve been here before, questioning whether Tiger will be back never mind winning tournaments again, and he has proven me wrong.

But how many comeback stories can one sportsman have?

Tiger getting himself pain-free is the important part of this story. He will be 48 in December and if there is one thing which he clearly has not had for a few years it’s a clean bill of health.

Tiger’s desire is unquestioned

There has never been any question about his ability. He’s Tiger Woods for goodness sake.

But there have been ongoing persistent questions about his physical fitness and mental strength alone is not enough.

He looked in considerable pain at Augusta and yet another surgery, not to mention another nine to 12 months of recovery, only add to the size of the task he is facing.

I’ve said before but I’ll repeat it, Tiger is not a guy for ceremonial appearances. If he doesn’t genuinely believe he can win a tournament he’s not going to be there.

Making a cut or finishing in the top 30 is of no interest to him and as great as he is, he’s not getting any younger.

Maybe this latest setback will be the straw to break the camel’s back when it comes to his legendary career.

Time will tell on that one.

But I’ll give the man credit, when he does call time on his career – whenever that may be – nobody will ever accuse him of lacking desire.

The hurdles he has faced and the willpower he has shown to overcome them time after time shows why he is one of the best to ever do it.

I’m not going to write him off just yet though. History has shown the man to be capable of some incredible things.

If this is the end then it will be Tiger who decides and nobody else.

A welcome run of tournaments starting in Abu Dhabi

My son Jack won’t be the only one in shorts this week.

I’m in Abu Dhabi this week for my first Challenge Tour event of 2023, the Abu Dhabi Challenge.

I’m looking forward to having the chance to play golf on a weekly basis again. We’re coming to the end of April and my schedule has been one tournament a month so far this year.

It’s far from ideal when you are trying to get some rhythm and momentum going.

Golfers are like football players. You can practise as much as you like but there is no substitute for competitive events, whether it be a golf tournament or a cup-tie.

You can’t just turn up and expect to be at your best from the start.

That’s why I’m really looking forward to the next three weeks as I know I’m going to playing.

I’m waiting to hear if I’m getting an invitation to play the Italian Open on the DP World Tour next week but I have received an invite for the Soudal Open in Belgium.

If I don’t get the chance to play in Italy next week then I’ll stay out here for the UAE Challenge.

I’m a little rusty in terms of tournament play but at least I know all about the national course here.

I’ve played it many times and walked the course earlier this year on a daily basis when I was covering the Hero Cup match between Continental Europe and Great Britain and Ireland.

It will be a first for me this week too in that I’ll be playing wearing shorts.

It’s in the mid-30s out here and let’s just say this is one rule change a man of my fair complexion backs 100%.

The factor 50 will be out and so will the Gallacher pins.

It’s time to stop the spats between rival tours

DP World Tour member Eddie Pepperell had a Twitter back-and-forth with Richard Bland of LIV Golf

It seems the tit-for-tat spat between rival tour players just won’t go away.

I had a chuckle at the Twitter exchange between my old amateur pal Richard Bland and Eddie Pepperell at the weekend over the party hole at the Grange Golf Club in Adelaide.

The club was hosting a LIV Golf event and Chase Koepka’s hole-in-one on Sunday sparked bedlam with plastic beer cups everywhere from spectators thrown around in celebration.

Eddie remarked it was nothing new as it happening at Scottsdale in Arizona for years.

Enter Blandy, who was quick to query where it had happened on the DP World Tour. There was a needless dig at Eddie only having been around for 15 minutes thrown in for good measure in a tweet which has since been deleted.

Back came Eddie with GolfSixes, the Heineken hole at Himmerland and the Beat the Pro in Holland. There was reference to fact he had won more in his 15 minutes than Blandy had achieved in 22 years on the tour also included for good measure.

To his credit Blandy apologised, admitting he may have a few too many sherbets in Adelaide after the event.

I’ve no doubt there guys in the respective camps egging the two men involved on and it was nice to see them bring the teasing to an end although it looks as if Blandy has closed his Twitter account.

But the wider issue is the needless back sniping. We should be past that point by now and David Horsey summed it up brilliantly.

He wrote: “I have no issue with players choosing to go play LIV…but I do have an issue with the deformation & disrespecting of the tours and players that gave them a platform to create their brand in the first place.

“And then think it’s fine to just come back & play when it suits?”