Songwriter Neil Young told us it's better to burn out than to fade away. It's entirely unclear which of the two Tiger Woods is doing.
Woods didn't flame out in the brilliant spectacle that was the 2008 U.S. Open, although he could have. The then 31-year-old hobbled his way to his last major championship victory on a shredded knee and fractured tibia. Half-a-decade after that, Woods ascended once again to become the PGA Tour's player of the year.
However, Woods also hasn't had a slow, public decay in the vein of Kobe Bryant, who played out his twilight like a young athlete trapped in an old athlete's body, tilting at windmills, stabbing in the dark to find skills long disappeared.
Rather Woods' twilight — if the end is indeed encroaching — has been a death by a thousand withdraws. He simply hasn't been able to play. Most recently the now 40-year-old pulled out Tuesday from the final 2016 major, the PGA Championship, and is reportedly shelved for the remainder of the season after that.
Woods' agent told the Golf Channel he's assessing when he might return next season. He hasn't played since last August. Nothing seems definite.
Amid the slew of withdraws, and a few years removed from Woods competing on the big stage, it's difficult to remember just how great the 14-time major winner was. But there was nobody like him. At his peak, he won 7 of 11 majors while, cumulatively speaking, shooting 60 shots better than the second-place player in those tournaments.
With Woods' 2016 season finished and his comeback in doubt, here are five video clips to remind you just how amazing he was. It might also provide a little hope for the future. As Young also said, "the king is gone, but he's not forgotten."
Bunker? No problem
At the 2000 Bell Championship, Woods found the bunker on hole No. 18, a long par-5. No matter: He hit a 6-iron 213 yards over water and stuck it just past the green, stunning everyone watching. It's perhaps a bit overlooked in the canon of Woods shots, but a shot the golfer himself has actually called probably the best of his career, Fox Sports pointed out.
'Better Than Most'
At the iconic island-green No. 17 during the 2001 Players Championship, Woods faced a 60-foot putt on an undulating, unpredictable surface. Of course, he sunk it, sending the announcers into a frenzy, with NBC's Gary Koch shouting repeatedly, "better than most!"
The Masters Chip In
Woods faced an extremely difficult chip at No. 16 at Augusta National in the 2005 Masters. He wasn't expected to get the ball close to the hole. But Woods hit a perfect shot and — in what seemed like a scene out of a movie — the ball ever-so-slowly rolled within one rotation of falling in the hole, paused, then sunk. The crowd went bonkers. Woods went on to win the tournament. The moment might be the most iconic of his career.
The Last Big Win
Effectively playing on one leg, Woods chipped in a shot during the 2008 U.S. Open's third round in a tournament he would go on to win. The ball bounced then slammed into the hole like a dunk in basketball. Woods shrugged, as if he didn't even fully grasp the feat he was pulling off.
The Flop Shot at Memorial
At the 2012 Memorial tournament, Woods pulled off a shot of devastating precision that required stunning guts. He took a full swing on a chip near the green — risking a disastrous miss-hit — that sent the ball way up into the air. It landed in the perfect spot and rolled right into the hole. Dressed in his signature Sunday-red shirt, Woods let a vintage fist-pump fly.
"Does that remind you of anybody?" announcer David Feherty asked the audience. "One guy. That guy."