During his arrest in Florida this past weekend, Tiger Woods claimed that he was on several medications, including Vicodin, a pain reliever.
Initially, many people assumed that Woods, who was found asleep as the wheel, was drunk. As it turns out, he may have a problem just as serious, if not more serious.
“Vicodin is a very, very dangerous drug because it’s very hard to give it up,” golf writer Robert Lusetich said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “People who have taken it for a number of years, those around them will tell you that they have changed, their personalities have changed. I think that for me, the injuries that Tiger has had – and he’s had injuries, there’s no questions about that – but the injuries that he’s had in a sense have allowed him to mask what I feel are perhaps some deeper problems. That is why I’ve felt for a long time that it’s very difficult for him to get his golf game back. I don’t know that he’s physically able . . . to get it back unless he does end up in a rehab (facility) – a real one – and get himself basically pain- (and) pill-free. That, I think, is the road out for him. And even if he never comes back as a golfer, as a human being I wish that for him.”
Woods was away from golf for 16 months before returning in December. By February, he was suffering from debilitating back spasms. He had a back operation in April.
Lusetich, the author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger’s Most Tumultuous Season, was asked if Woods will ever play a full calendar year of golf again.
“The odds are heavily against that,” Lusetich said. “We’re talking about a guy (who has) had spinal fusion surgery. This is the end of the road. There is nothing else. If this doesn’t fix his back and the problems with the spasms and the pain, the nerve damage that he’s had – if this doesn’t work, there’s nothing else. He’s reached the end of the road. He is still, as he admitted in a statement last week, he’s still three months away from being able to actually turn his body. Forget abut swinging 125 miles an hour. That’s just a pipe dream right now. He is a long way away from just getting back to play any kind of golf. Forget about dominant golf.”
Woods, 41, hasn’t won a major since 2008.
“That’s not old for a golfer,” Lusetich said of 41. “We say Vijay Singh late into his 40s was a very competitive player and won majors in his 40s. But the reality is he’s a very old 41. He’s got a very broken body: a lot of surgeries, a lot of problems. And then on top of that, we have a lot of scar tissue.”
In more ways than one. Woods has been embroiled in scandal since crashing his Escalade into a fire hydrant in 2009. Since then, Woods has never fully regained his grip on the game.
“Kobe had to deal with this very same thing when he had a rape trial and created the Black Mamba,” Lusetich said. “He created a character that allowed him to go onto the basketball court and not be Kobe and not listen to what people are saying and the abuse and just shut it all out and focus and win – and he won. But Tiger doesn’t seem to have that ability and maybe golf isn’t the same in that sense where you can just create that persona and be that persona. He had his chance in 2013. He won five times and he was player of the year, but the majors – where he measures himself – he couldn’t get it done. That’s when I knew it would be a difficult mountain to climb. Once you get to the top of that mountain, I think everyone that’s been there, the great athletes will tell you it’s one thing to start climbing it in your teens and 20s. It’s another thing to try to do it later in your career and get back up there.”