Tiger Woods has not finished a full PGA TOUR season since 2007 due to injuries and personal issues, but his latest left Achilles injury suffered at the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral on Sunday should be the greatest concern of all for fans of the former world No. 1 and the sport of golf.
In other words, it could be the beginning of the end of a legendary career. Woods was on his way to making believers out of his critics once again that he truly was healthy and ready to compete for more majors after a final round 62 at the Honda Classic in February.
Though he said via Twitter that it was only a mild strain and that he hopes to play at Bay Hill, the string of injuries casts a serious doubt on his longevity.
Now, it appears that just keeping his body intact long enough to chase Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major championship victories will be a tall order. The injuries of late are difficult to watch for any sports fan, but golf enthusiasts who say they don't need Woods for the game to thrive are kidding themselves.
Golf is in the United States is in an afterthought when it comes to major professional sports. With just three Americans in the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking and one in the top five, it stands to reason that Woods' absence from competition would only augment a decline in the popularity of the sport. Whatever the severity of this injury, the game needs him back. However, it appears more likely with each reported injury that he may never be the same.
Though current world No. 1, Rory McIlroy is a fantastic young player with worldwide appeal and a flawless swing, he cannot bring excitement to the game the same way Woods can. There are no substitutes for a player who singlehandedly caused golf to explode in popularity.
Love him or hate him, golf needs Tiger Woods, and the PGA TOUR needs him even more. There is no substitute for a legend, and he transcends the sport. Casual sports fans won't hesitate to switch away from golf if Woods isn't playing because no one has come along that can generate interest the way only he can. Golf fans will still follow the sport like always, but they can count on much less coverage of the sport they care about - those are just facts.
In the coming weeks leading up to The Masters Tournament in 2012, it was going to be exciting to see how well Woods could play and perhaps regain championship form. Now, fans must lie in wait once again wondering whether or not he will miss yet another major.
The game needs him and his legacy for as long as it can have him.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and follows all developments across the PGA TOUR.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets
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