The Masters is over, and for first time in a long period Tiger made the cut and finished a tournament. To no one’s surprise, Tiger did not make a run for the leaderboard on Sunday, but he certainly opened some eyes by finishing tied for 17th. At 38 years of age, he is no longer in his prime and now appears fortunate when he makes the cut and finishes. In the future he may have a few more outstanding tournaments, but they will likely be few and far between, and it is likely he will only win a few more tournaments throughout the remainder of his career.
Tiger has now had lumbar back surgery, knee surgery, and may have hip problems besides the above, not to mention he injured his wrist in Sunday’s final round. He pulled out of a tournament earlier this year when he aggravated his back. Most likely, for him to play well, the conditions must be perfect, and he has to have a good day when his pain is controlled. To play at a high enough level routinely is unlikely since either his back or joints will cause just a slight issue such that he will not be good enough to play against the younger and healthier players.
Gold is a Young Man’s Game
To win at a professional level, one must be a top athlete in perfect physical and mental health. All sports at this level require one to be in the best physical shape to master the skill necessary to play a perfect game. After having the physical skill, one needs to have absolute mental concentration for the game. If one has physical pain, the concentration for the perfect game is not present. If one has had back and knee surgery, one also does not have the perfect physical balance to be at the top of one’s game.
As we age, there are many changes that occur in the body, and after age 25, for most sports, we are slightly past our prime for physical ability. By the late 30’s we are definitely past our prime for almost all intense sports, especially individual events. There are a few older athletes who are competitive later in life, but this is generally a rare event. The best athletes perform as well as they do because their bodies and minds are in perfect condition for their sport.
For professional golf, a new leader is likely to emerge in the future, and that leader could easily be 21-year-old Jordan Spieth, who ran away from the competition at Augusta this weekend. Tiger was the first very young winner to take the stage. Now, it will likely be someone who is in the young twenties and has great mental strength to deal with the pressure of winning, which sounds a lot like Spieth or Rory McIlroy. I think they’ll be the face of professional golf for the next 5-10 years.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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