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What to Make of Tiger Woods' Up-and-Down Weekend at 2014 WGC-Cadillac

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What to Make of Tiger Woods' Up-and-Down Weekend at 2014 WGC-Cadillac
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
This is what has definied Tiger Woods' game over the last two weeks.

Here we are a little more than a week out from Tiger Woods' withdrawal from the Honda Classic, an act spawned by back pain and one that sparked worldwide concern as to Woods' future and the future of the game itself.

The core back issues Woods is dealing with, and the accompanying spasms, were not going to go away in the few days he had for treatment and rest before teeing it up Thursday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

Maybe he felt a sense of obligation as defending champion to play at Doral. You get the impression that Woods doesn't really have much of a sense of obligation other than to his children, but what other explanation could there be for him to have played there?

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
This is the shot that sent Woods' back into spasms on Sunday.

We understand this is his preparation time for the Masters and that he's followed this routine for years.

But these aren't "those" years anymore. His age is 38, his body has been beaten and bruised on the way to greatness and just like his life has changed completely over the last five years, his golf life has changed as well, and he's going to need to change with it.

Woods played at Doral with mixed results, at best.

He opened with a struggling 76, followed with a ho-hum 73 in difficult conditions. Both of those were not unfamiliar to Woods and the way his game had been to this point in the season, but he was scrutinized very carefully every step he took.

As Woods has done many times over the years, he shocked the world on Saturday, putting up a 66 that looked an awful lot like one of the rounds he would routinely post when he used to dominate the game.

And then he tweaked the back and hobbled his way to a 78 on Sunday afternoon.

So what did we learn from this week that was supposed to feature the debut of new Doral?

We learned that when Woods' back is somewhat calm and the spasms have been quieted he can play some pretty quality golf. A 73 in the strong Florida wins is good golf. A 66 in great conditions is very good golf.

We learned that, at any moment, over any shot, a turn, a swing or hard contact with the ground can aggravate the heck out of his back and fuel the fire all over again. The difficult part about that is that no one knows when it's going to happen.

And that makes for a lot of tentative swings on a golf tour when tentative swings need not apply.

Other than that, what we know for sure is that we don't know very much about Tiger Woods, his golf game or his health. Openness and candor have never been things high up on his list of concerns, so it's fairly certain we're never going to know much about his health.

The golf swing will show itself if he ever gets somewhere close to healthy.

Is he the same golfer that won five tournaments a year ago? No, he's not, not even close. He didn't have these kinds of physical issues to deal with last year.

Is he the best player in the world? Since the beginning of this calendar year, he's probably not the best player on Jupiter Island. No, he's somewhere near the best in the game and the good players.

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As usual, Woods gave no clear indication of what his immediate plans are. He's won eight times at Bay Hill and has been very loyal to host Arnold Palmer there. But even if he won for the ninth time, so what? Would that help him be any more ready for the Masters than a few more weeks of rest, treatment and relaxation?

I don't know the answer to that. Maybe he doesn't and maybe the doctors can only speculate. But maybe common sense might say let's just shut this down for two weeks, do all the practice you can get away with the week before the Masters and use your course knowledge and experience to attempt to win your 15th major.

It used to be you could be certain of a lot of things about Woods' game. He would make the clutch putts, he'd hit laser-like iron shots. His tee shots used to be devastating to opponents. He could make shots no one else even dared to think about.

That was then, however. This is now.

He is still a mystery in many ways and most likely always will be.

Right now, however, he needs to get some clarity for himself. Two rounds in the high 70s will not win any major championship unless severe weather changes conditions to nearly unplayable.

Woods needs to get himself as close to healthy as he can to prevent 2014 from becoming another lost season for him.

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