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Another setback for Woods and for golf

Tiger Woods' announcement Tuesday that he won't play in the U.S. Open next week because of lingering problems with his left knee and Achilles was a disappointment but not a surprise.

The question now is will we ever again see the Tiger we marveled at for so many years?

Maybe not.

Even if he lost you when his personal life came apart, his golf was impossible to ignore. He has played golf better than anyone ever, Jack Nicklaus included.

But what once seemed preordained - that Woods would surpass Nicklaus' record of 18 major championship victories - now seems increasingly doubtful. Woods has been stuck at 14 since he won the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg at Torrey Pines near San Diego, when it seemed he was capable of anything.

If he doesn't tie or break Nicklaus' record, it should be because he didn't make it happen. Not because he couldn't make it happen.

There's a big difference.

Woods has had four surgeries on his left knee and he's been hobbling since he hurt himself in the third round of the Masters almost two months ago. He says he hopes to play in the AT&T National he will host next month and get back to a regular schedule after that. But Woods also hoped to play at Quail Hollow and go more than nine holes at the Players Championship last month.

As he was stacking up major championships in his 20s, we imagined what he would do when he hit his mid-30s, typically the prime of a professional golfer's life. No one expected this.

He's only 35 but it seems like an old 35, at least right now.

The great golf writer Dan Jenkins was half-joking years ago when he said the only thing that could stop Tiger would be a bad marriage or an injury. Well ...

Nicklaus doesn't want his record broken but he wants to see Tiger give it his best shot. He wants to see the old Tiger, ripping at tee shots, gouging iron shots out of the rough, walking putts into the hole. That was golf like we've never seen it.

When Nicklaus spoke by phone to Woods recently, he told him as much.

"(It) is the same thing I've said to him a thousand times, 'Tiger, nobody wants records to be broken. That's obvious. I don't care who it is,' " Nicklaus said at his Memorial Tournament last week. " 'But I certainly don't want you not to be healthy and not have the opportunity to play to break records. I want you to get yourself healthy ... get your golf game back in shape and I wish you well, wish you good luck.' "

Jack's record deserves Tiger's best shot.

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