If he had the chance at a mulligan, Tiger Woods wouldn't have teed it up at The Players Championship.
Maybe then his balky left knee would have allowed him to take his usual place at the U.S. Open. And certainly he wouldn't be wavering — again — about the next major that looms over whatever he is able to accomplish these next two weeks.
"It was a borderline call," Woods told reporters at the AT&T National, where he's a bystander this week instead of a competitor. "I made the call on that and played and wasn't quite 100 percent. Unfortunately, I hurt myself there.
"I'm just going to learn my lesson from what I did at The Players and apply it this time and come back when I'm 100 percent."
The British Open has to be considered doubtful, though Woods hasn't shut that door completely. The notion that he hasn't struck a golf ball with anything more than a putter in recent days likely speaks volumes.
It did at The Players, when Woods disclosed he hadn't taken a full swing in the four weeks from the end of the Masters to the day before he drove up to TPC Sawgrass.
The byproduct was almost unsightly. Woods hurt the knee again on his opening tee shot and lasted nine holes before withdrawing. In between came splashdowns in the water, flubbed chips and an ever-slower walk between shots.
"I felt this wasn't anywhere near (as severe as previous injuries)," Woods said, "but I hurt myself again. It's time to actually take a different approach."
It's not easy for any athlete to admit he came back too soon — maybe more so to hear it from a man whose dominance was built as much on his iron will as his supreme skills. After all, this is the guy who won the 2008 U.S. Open on a torn ACL and two stress fractures in his leg.
What can be tougher, though, is to resist that urge. That's why Woods' words of patience — no timetable — came across as something of a revelation.
Maybe he had no choice. What originally was described as a "minor" sprain has morphed into a seven-week layoff.
"I've pushed it enough times throughout the years," he said of his ongoing knee woes, "and I keep kind of setting myself back."
Asked whether he'd be playing by now if he had skipped The Players, Woods quickly said, "Yes."
There's a long-term view in this new approach too. Woods, 35, hasn't won a major since that 2008 U.S. Open, in a holding pattern four shy of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18.
While fans argue whether the mark is starting to slip out of reach, Woods remains optimistic.
"(Nicklaus) won when he was 46, right? I've still got some time," he said. "So I feel pretty confident of what my future holds and very excited about it."
The only way he puts himself back on the path, though, is to get healthy. However long it takes.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun