Jack Nicklaus is changing his tune on Tiger Woods’ future

Jack Nicklaus, the man whose major championship record Tiger Woods has spent his career chasing, doesn’t sound very optimistic about Woods’ future.

This stands in marked contrast to Nicklaus’ endless torch carrying in support of the idea that Tiger will get healthy, return to glory, and eventually win 19 majors. Through Woods’ infidelity scandal and multiple back surgeries, Nicklaus remained steadfast in his optimism.

No longer, it seems. Endlessly willing to answer questions that have nothing to do with the events he’s at and the causes he’s supporting, reporters asked Jack Nicklaus about Woods’ potential return to competition while the Golden Bear was attending a charity event in Aldie, Virginia.

“He might come back and play — I think it’d be pretty tough for him…and as many problems as he’s had recently,” Nicklaus told USA Today on Monday. “His problems are more life problems than they are golf problems right now.”

Woods, as we known, is presently attending in-patient treatment for issues with narcotic pain medication and management of a sleep disorder.

“He’ll have a very hard time. I don’t know whether Tiger will play much golf anymore,” Nicklaus said.

You’d assume Nicklaus’ assessment has more to do with Woods’ return from yet another back surgery (his fourth, in May), and less to do with his drug issues. If we’re to assume Woods will miss the rest of the 2016-2017 season, he’d be looking at a return in early 2018 after playing fewer than four rounds of competitive golf in 2017 and with four back surgeries in as many years.

On a more positive note, Nicklaus believes Woods still can do much for the game and its future, as evidenced by the good work of his Tiger Woods Foundation.

“Whether he plays golf or not, I think he’s got an awful lot to offer the youth of the country and the game itself,” Nicklaus said.

He’s right. Whether Woods’ (the golfer) legend continues to be written or the book is shut on his competitive career, his greatness and single-minded pursuit of high achievement remain an example like none other. If we add his status as a minority from a middle-class family, the Woods example and mythos are all the more compelling.

In addition to building his business in his post-playing days, and regardless of your feelings on his extramarital affairs or reckless behavior, you have to hope Woods will continue to work with and inspire the next generation of golfers.

And speaking of supporting the game, can we just say a collective “thank you” to Jack Nicklaus for tirelessly answering questions about Tiger Woods and the big issues of the game? It’s a unique element of our sport: Any time anything significant is going on, we have to get Jack’s take. Fortunately, the Golden Bear obliges, and we’re the better for it.

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