Tiger Woods turns 40, but it sure looks like 70

Tiger Woods turns 40 Wednesday. Forty, going on 70.

It certainly seems that way what with all the injuries and surgeries and controversies and missed tournaments and headlines stretching across the decades since he appeared as a 2-year-old on The Mike Douglas Show in 1978.

Happy Birthday to the oldest 40-year-old in sports.

It’s almost hard to believe that the ultra-talented, brash 21-year-old who won the Masters by 12 strokes in 1997 is now middle-aged.

Then again, it’s not hard to believe at all. Just as Tiger was in a hurry to win majors, it turns out he also was in a rush to reach middle age. Not by choice, of course, but it appears to have been inevitable, considering how he lived his life outside of golf, how he contorted his body to make a golf ball do what he wanted it to do (putting tremendous pressure on a back that eventually couldn’t take it anymore), how he drove himself so hard so fast that he has driven himself right out of the game he once dominated, at least for the time being.

It all played out in front of our eyes: major by major, year by year, even if we didn’t realize it at the time. He was young, the youngest man to achieve the career Grand Slam and the fastest to reach 50 tournament victories on the PGA Tour. He was going to easily catch Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors, and pass him on his way to 20. Maybe 25? Whatever you could imagine, it might come true.

And then, he wasn’t young anymore. Tiger was only 32 when he famously won the 2008 U.S. Open on what turned out to be a broken leg. It was to be his last victory in a major – to date, or forever, depending on your level of optimism.

Little more than a year later, Tiger was caught from behind on the final day of a major for the very first time, losing the 2009 PGA Championship to Y.E. Yang, hardly an equal. At the time it was viewed as a significant upset, not a watershed moment in Tiger’s career. Now, it’s seen as much more the latter than the former.

And then, the big one: Tiger destroyed his marriage with a personal scandal the likes of which the sports world had never seen, then started breaking down physically, missing months at a time, undergoing surgical procedures the way he used to rack up major titles.

This fact says it all: Tiger has had three surgical procedures on the same spot in his back in a span of 19 months. And it hasn’t been just the back: at various times, he has had knee, Achilles, leg, wrist and neck problems, including four surgeries on his left knee alone.

Tiger says that since his third back surgery on Oct. 28, he can only stretch a little and walk. He is not able to play golf, not at all. See what I mean about 40 going on 70? Most 40-year-olds who love golf find more time for it as they get older. Tiger is going the wrong way.

And yet, a milestone birthday also comes with hope. Interestingly, even though the Masters always will be Tiger’s best shot at another major victory, he went oh-for-his-30s in Augusta. Unbelievable, but true. He last won the Masters in 2005, when he was 29.

That’s a run of bad luck that none of us saw coming.

Then again, Tiger should look at the bright side. At least his turbulent 30s are over.

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