Tiger not pulling our leg

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

Anyone still think Tiger Woods was faking it?

Any of those skeptics out there still believe he only winced in pain when he hit a bad shot, using his bum knee as a crutch of sorts and milking it for dramatic effect?

Turns out using a crutch would've been a better idea than playing golf, as Woods revealed yesterday he's finished for the season, if not for a full year.

Not only will he undergo reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament in the left knee he had "scoped" nine weeks earlier, but he also revealed yesterday he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines with a double stress fracture in his left tibia (shin). The shin injury was detected two weeks before the U.S. Open and was a result of Woods' intense rehab efforts.

While the news augments the brilliance of a gutsy victory he called his greatest ever, it also confirms what was written in this space last week from Torrey Pines: The knee injury he downplayed all week is going to play a much larger role in his career than he or his handlers wanted anyone to know.

It could very well be the only thing able to stop him from completely rewriting the record books he seems to revise every weekend.

Given the torque in his swing and the stress it puts on his front knee and shin, it's quite possible even modern medicine won't be able to fully repair or mask the damage millions of 130 m.p.h. swings can do to a body.

This being his fourth knee surgery, it's apparent the body of the fittest man on tour is starting to show increasing signs of weakness.

Admitting last week the advice he got from doctors was "don't play golf," Woods' answer when asked if he could be doing more damage by playing at Torrey was telling:

"Maybe," said the 32-year-old. "I've never been very good at listening to doctors."

He's listening now, as the shooting pain and constant swelling he felt during the U.S. Open clearly underscored how serious the injury is.

Again, as frustrating as it was for journalists on site to have every question about his knee answered with evasive, one-word responses, Woods deserves nothing but praise for the way he tried to understate the significance of what he then knew to be a major injury.

"I know much was made of my knee throughout the last week and it was important to me that I disclose my condition publicly at an appropriate time," said Woods on his website yesterday.

"I wanted to be very respectful of the USGA and their incredibly hard work and make sure the focus was the U.S. Open. Now, it is clear that the right thing to do is to listen to my doctors, follow through with this surgery, and focus my attention on rehabilitating my knee."

Now that the debate over whether his grimacing was "a show" is officially over, it is replaced by discussions over whether he was foolish to play. It's easy for others to suggest so, but for a man who has made it his lifelong quest to win one more major than Jack Nicklaus' 18, Woods would still likely argue it was worth the pain and future damage to grab No. 14. Time will tell.

Either way, the circumstances under which he won add to his considerable legend, further cementing the fact he's not only the greatest golfer of all time but one of the greatest athletes.

Turns out Stephen Ames was right when he said Sunday morning, "Tiger could beat us all on one foot."

Ames wasn't joking, and Woods wasn't faking.

Fact is, Woods' future -- and, in turn, that of the PGA Tour -- hangs in the balance of major surgery and how he goes about recovering from it.

Of course he'll be back, but for how long? And how good will he be?

Questions many thought we'd never ask about golf's Bobby Baun.


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