(AFP) – Jun 18, 2008
LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Tiger Woods's epic US Open triumph may have exacted a costly price as golf's undisputed superstar announced Wednesday he needed season-ending knee surgery.
Woods, 32, is to have reconstructive surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and also needs time off to allow two stress fractures in his left tibia to heal.
The news, released via the player's website www.tigerwoods.com, comes two days after Woods defeated Rocco Mediate in a thrilling US Open playoff to earn his 14th major championship.
The gritty victory took Woods one step closer to matching Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles, but the revelation that he will need a fourth operation on his left knee cast a shadow over his pursuit of that revered mark.
"I will be as dedicated to rehabilitating my knee as I am in all other aspects of my career," Woods vowed.
"While I am obviously disappointed to have to miss the remainder of the season, I have to do the right thing for my long-term health and look forward to returning to competitive golf when my doctors agree that my knee is sufficiently healthy," he said.
"My doctors assure me with the proper rehabilitation and training, the knee will be strong and there will be no long-term effects."
Throughout the US Open, played on the Torrey Pines South course in San Diego, California, Woods could be seen limping and grimacing, sometimes even doubling over in pain after hitting a shot.
His distress was most apparent during Saturday's remarkable third round, when Woods seized the tournament lead with a back nine that included a 65-foot putt for eagle on the par-five 13th hole, a chip-in birdie at 17 and another eagle at 18.
On Sunday, Woods birdied the 72nd hole of regulation to force an 18-hole playoff with Mediate.
Trailing Mediate at the 18th playoff hole, he birdied that as well to force sudden-death, finally winning on the 91st hole of the tournament.
Woods ranked the victory as one of his best, right alongside his first major triumph at the 1997 Masters.
But he admitted on Monday that in his determination he may have done more damage to his already injured knee.
He had undergone arthroscopic surgery to repair damaged cartilage in the knee on April 15, two days after a second-place finish at the Masters.
He had expected to play the Memorial tournament on May 29, but instead made his return to competition at the US Open.
Until last Thursday's first round at Torrey Pines, he hadn't walked 18 holes since the Masters.
Asked often about his knee during the Open, a stoic Woods said little more than that it was "sore."
"It is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less," he said in San Diego.
But Woods said Wednesday that he had learned of the stress fractures in May, and that he knew there was damage to the ACL, one of four strong ligaments connecting the bones of the knee joint.
He had ruptured the ligament after last year's British Open, while running at home.
Woods's April surgery was designed to delay an ACL procedure in hopes that he could get through this season.
"I was determined to do everything and anything in my power to play in the US Open at Torrey Pines, which is a course that is close to where I grew up and holds many special memories for me," he said.
"Although I will miss the rest of the 2008 season, I'm thrilled with the fact that last week was such a special tournament."
No date for the surgery was given, and Woods will continue to make appearances to fulfill his sponsor and charitable commitments over the next six months.
However, his pursuit of Nicklaus's record will remain on hold as he misses the British Open championship at Royal Birkdale in July. Nor will he defend his US PGA Chamionship title in August.
Woods will also miss the Ryder Cup Europe vs United States showdown in September at Valhalla in Kentucky.
Woods said he chose not to discuss the extent of his knee injury during the US Open in order not to draw attention away from the tournament.
"Now it is clear that the right thing to do is to listen to my doctors, follow through with this surgery and focus my attention on rehabilitating my knee," he said.
Woods has already shown he can come back from injury.
After his second knee surgery in December of 2002, when doctors drained fluid and removed a benign cyst, he won three of his first four tournaments.
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