Tiger Woods said at a press conference early last week that he is “pain free for the first time in 2 years”.

We can interpret that statement two ways.

It’s either going to be very good for the golfing legend… or bad.

Namely, can Tiger still be as successful without chasing pain down on a regular basis?

It seems to have been a major motivator for him to succeed in the past.

Think about it:  For the last several years, either Tiger has had nagging injuries to deal with on a daily basis, or has found himself post surgery with pain to work through.

Yet, he still managed to fight through those many physical ailments during the course of his career to accumulate the 2nd most PGA Tour wins (79), only behind Sam Snead (82); and 2nd most Majors (14) to Jack Nicklaus’ (18).

He was able to do it by using his stealth mental toughness to beat not only his opponents, but the pain.

His history tells the tale:

Tiger had surgery in 2002 on his left knee and missed the season opener in 2003, but went on to win 5 tournaments that year.

In 2007, he ruptured his ACL in his left knee while running on a golf course after the British Open, but then won 5 of the last 6 tournaments he plays, including the PGA for his 13th major.

In 2008, he was advised just weeks before the US Open that he has two stress fractures of the left tibia and told to rest for 6 weeks.  He went on to win the US Open.

Immediately after the US Open, Tiger has surgery to repair that ACL and comes back in Feb 2009 to win 6 tournaments that year.

In late 2009, Tiger’s infidelities are publicly exposed.  He doesn’t win again until 2012 and battles against Achilles and back pain and yet still wins 3 tournaments that year and 5 in 2013.

Now, after his back surgery in March 2014 to help alleviate a pinched nerve that was hurting him for several months, he is miraculously pain free and the rest time has helped the Achilles to be a non-issue.

So, one is left to wonder:  How will Tiger Woods perform without using the adversity of pain to fight through?

Perhaps he’ll get off to a slow start at first, but I think he’ll do just fine.

In fact, wouldn’t it be fair to say that a healthy Tiger may be the most dangerous kind?

Consider that Tiger’s most successful career years were ones without major injuries:

In 1999, Tiger won 8 tournaments, including 1 major.  In 2000, he had 9 wins, including 3 majors (arguably his most successful 2 year campaign).

In 2005, Tiger had 6 wins, including 2 majors; 2006 – 8 wins incl. 2 majors; and 2007 – 7 wins incl. 1 major.

Going forward, without the constant reminder of his body in pain to distract him, Tiger can finally do what’s he’s seemingly wanted to do all along: practice more so that he can “own his swing” and have it be nearly automatic, as well as continuously working on his golf course management.

If he can do those things without issue like he did during his most successful years, I’d go out on a limb to say that I think Tiger’s quest to break Nicklaus’ Major wins record is still intact.

Heck, I think he’s even going to do it.

Yes, even knowing Tiger is at the tender age of 38.

After all, Jack Nicklaus won 4 majors after 38 years old (1978 – The Open; 1980 – US Open; 1980 – PGA; 1986 – Masters).

Ultimately, if Tiger can redirect his energy used to focus on working through pain and put it towards perfecting his swing and beating the guys with it on the course, we are in for one hell of continuously enjoyable ride watching him.


Sources :

Complete list of Tiger Woods' injuries: http://www.pga.com/news/pga-tour/complete-list-tiger-woods-injuries
Tournaments Won by Tiger Woods (By Year): http://golf.about.com/od/tigerwoods/a/tigerwoodswins.htm
List of Career Achievements by Jack Nicklaus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_career_achievements_by_Jack_Nicklaus

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