The pros, most of them, play in cones of silence, cellphones off, heads down. Some will get basketball scores from marshals while waiting on the tee of a par-3, but that's about as much news as they want. Watching Doral at home on Sunday, you maybe knew that Tiger Woods changed from black shoes to white ones at the turn, but the players wouldn't know or care, and why would they? So here's the striking thing. On Sunday player after player finished his round, learned in the scorer's room that Woods had withdrawn after his tee shot on 12, and pretty much said the same thing: What a shame. I hope he'll be back for Augusta.
They like Tiger. And even if they don't, they know what he does for golf.
The winner of the Cadillac Championship, the underrated, underappreciated Justin Rose—a tall, broad-shouldered Englishman living in Orlando, like Nick Faldo before him—learned of Tiger's latest health-related WD when it came up in a question in his postvictory press conference.
"Didn't know Tiger WD'd," Rose said. Under the tutelage of Sean Foley, who also works with Woods, Rose has now won four times in the last 21 months. Woods is looking for his first Tour victory since the BMW Championship in September 2009. "Why did he?" Rose asked.
"Achilles," came the answer.
Rose squinched his nose as if smelling Friday's fish and said, "That's not good news. Hopefully he's holding himself back for the Masters and doesn't want to do more damage."
He had it exactly correct. Woods said he felt tightness in his left Achilles while warming up on Sunday. In a statement released by his camp, Woods said, "After hitting my tee shot on 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw. In the past I may have tried to continue to play, but this time I decided to do what I thought was necessary."
Woods was playing with Webb Simpson, five groups ahead of the Bubba Watson--Keegan Bradley finale. Bubba's shot into 18—from damp rough, past waving palms, into a gusty wind, over a man-made pond and with a four-iron—could have earned a permanent spot in the alltime Doral highlight reel, depending on the outcome of his nine-footer. But a wise man once said that good shots must come in groups of two, and Bubba's putt, sadly, slid by on the low side. Rose won while standing on the driving range.
Woods was long gone by Sunday's witching hour, leaving the players' parking lot in a Mercedes at about 5 p.m., rolling down his window briefly to give Chris Reimer, a Tour official who chased him down, a two-sentence health report. Last May, you may recall, Woods left the players' parking lot in a Mercedes at the Players Championship after playing nine holes in 42 shots and tweaking his surgically repaired left knee.
Fifteen minutes earlier, at 4:45 on Sunday, things were so different. Not that Tiger was exactly in it. He had shot rounds of 72, 67 and 68 at the so-called Blue Monster, nine under par. Through 11 holes on Sunday, he was three over for the day. As he walked to the 12th tee, he looked some clapping kids in the eye and gave them a nod. The new Tiger.