McDowell: Golf needs Tiger
There will be no US Open for Tiger Woods next week, but he does still hope to make next month's Open at Sandwich.
Woods spoke of "short-term frustration for long-term gain" after announcing on Tuesday night his knee and Achilles injuries will prevent him playing at Congressional. It is the first time he has missed the event since his 1995 debut, but it is only three years ago he was absent from The Open and US PGA following reconstructive knee surgery.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell described the former world number one's latest setback as "a massive blow" and added: "We all hope as golfers that his health can come back. Golf needs him. He has been golf for the last 15 years."
McDowell is as unsure as anybody, though, about what the future now holds for the 35-year-old, who has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and a tournament for 19 months. Asked whether Woods, down to 15th in the rankings, can return to his best the Northern Irishman commented: "That is the question.
"We all look at the way his last couple of years have gone and now there are questions over his physical health. Will he be back? Nobody knows at the minute - there's obviously a lot going on. His mental health is one question and his physical health is now another."
Woods said in a statement: "I am extremely disappointed that I won't be playing in the US Open, but it's time for me to listen to my doctors and focus on the future. I was hopeful that I could play, but if I did I risk further damage to my left leg. My knee and Achilles tendon are not fully healed. I hope to be ready for AT&T National (that starts on June 30), the next two majors and the rest of the year."
The Open is on July 14-17, but the humps and hollows of Royal St George's must make it debatable if he will make the trip if there are still some concerns about his injuries. Woods, who has had four knee operations during his career, hurt it again on Augusta's 17th hole in the third round of The Masters in April.
He returned for the Players Championship last month, but limped out after playing nine holes in 42 shots - only one off his worst ever. "It's been a frustrating and difficult year, but I'm committed to my long-term health," Woods added. "I want to thank the fans for their encouragement and support. I am truly grateful and will be back playing when I can."
McDowell commented: "When I saw him hobbling through the locker room at the Players Championship the warning signs were there, but we thought he'd be ready for the US Open. Tiger plays his cards close to his chest and it's pretty difficult to know what's going on, but obviously this is a lot more serious than we thought.
"His quest to beat Jack Nicklaus's record is one of the great golf stories and we hope he gets better soon."