Tiger Woods is done for the year, but not without one last major that he said might have been his best ever.
Woods explained why today when he revealed he will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left knee that he injured 10 months ago.
He also suffered a double stress fracture of his left tibia two weeks before the U.S. Open, ignoring doctors’ advice to take six weeks off to let it heal. And he still won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, going 91 holes over five days on a knee that was getting worse.
“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,” Woods said on his Web site.
He had arthroscopic surgery April 15 to clean out cartilage in his left knee, bypassing ACL surgery with hopes it could get him through the 2008 season. But the stress fracture and a ligament that could no longer sustain a powerful swing made it impossible to keep going.
Woods did not say when he would have surgery. His swing coach, Hank Haney, said the recovery is typically six to eight months.
“He’s been playing way less than 100 percent for a long, long, time,” Haney said. “It has limited him a lot in practice. He’s going to come back better than he’s ever been.”
Woods was last seen in public late Monday afternoon walking with a pronounced limp across Torrey Pines toward the parking lot, the U.S. Open trophy in his arms.
Upcoming surgery makes his 14th major title even more staggering — despite the stress fractures, he managed to win a U.S. Open that required five days of flinching, grimacing and a long list of spectacular shots that have defined his career.
“Although I will miss the rest of the 2008 season, I’m thrilled with the fact that last week was such a special tournament,” Woods said.
He won despite doctors telling him to rest.
Haney was with him in Florida when doctors told Woods the preferred treatment for the stress fractures was three weeks on crutches and three weeks of inactivity.
“Tiger looked at the doctor and said, ’I’m playing in the U.S. Open, and I’m going to win.’ And then he started putting on his shoes,” Haney said. “He looked at me and said, ’Come on, Hank. We’ll just putt today.’ ”
Woods’ ledger for 2008 is a career for some players.
He played only seven times worldwide and won five times, including a major that allowed him to join Jack Nicklaus as the only players to capture the career Grand Slam three times over.
But he will miss a major for the first time in his career — the British Open next month at Royal Birkdale and the PGA Championship in August at Oakland Hills, where Woods is the two-time defending champion.
“Tiger is an enormous attraction, there’s no denying that,” Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson said. “But the Open Championship has had many exciting finishes which Tiger has not been part of, and I’m sure there will be more. It’s very sad. We’re very sorry that he’s succumbed to the injury and he won’t be competing in the Open.
“We hope he has the speediest recovery.”
Woods also will miss the Ryder Cup in September, meaning the ninth player on the U.S. standings will qualify for the team.
The majors won’t miss Woods nearly as much as the PGA Tour, especially with its second year of the FedEx Cup that Woods won in a landslide a year ago.
“Tiger is our tour,” Kenny Perry said from the Travelers Championship. “When you lose your star player, it definitely hurts.”
The PGA Tour said in a statement that its concern — as it would be for any player — is for Woods’ health and well being, both on and off the golf course.
“We wish him the best toward a speedy recovery,” the statement said.
It will be the third surgery in five years on his left knee, although Woods said doctors have assured him the outlook is positive. When asked Monday if he further damaged his knee by playing in the U.S. Open, Woods said, “Maybe.”
Doctors have told him, however, that the stress fractures will heal with time.
Woods is ultra private with his health and personal life, never more so than at the U.S. Open. He never mentioned the torn ACL or the stress fracture, and wouldn’t say how he was treating it, only that it was more sore as the week went on.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was when the injury first happened.
Woods said he tore the ACL while jogging at home after the British Open last July. He chose not to have surgery and went on a run that included seven consecutive victories, including the Dubai Desert Classic in Europe and his Target World Challenge, an unofficial event.
He did not play overseas late last year for the first time since 2003, hopeful that rest could allow him to play more this year. But the pain intensified through the Masters, where he finished second, and Woods said the cartilage damage developed from the ACL injury.
What he didn’t anticipate were the stress fractures, discovered as he tried to get ready to play in the Memorial. “The stress fractures that were discovered just prior to the tournament unfortunately prevented me from participating and had a huge impact on the timing for my return,” Woods said. “I was determined though, to do everything and anything in my power to play in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which is a course that is close to where I grew up and holds many special memories for me.”
Woods won for the eighth time at the public golf course in San Diego — a U.S. Open, a record six times at the Buick Invitational, and a Junior World Championship as a teenager.