Woods turns 40, still three wins shy of Snead's 82

Wed Dec 30, 2015 3:30am EST
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By Andrew Both

(Reuters) - As Tiger Woods celebrates his 40th birthday on Wednesday, he must be struck by the fact that time stands still for no one and he will face a different golfing landscape when, or if, he returns to competition in 2016.

Less than two years ago, and even as recently as last year, many Tiger fans still eagerly anticipated the day when, so they thought, he would match the record of 18 major championship victories held by Jack Nicklaus.

Woods had won five PGA Tour events in 2013 and, though major silverware had eluded him since 2008, there seemed no reason why he could not add to his haul of 14 majors as long as he stayed healthy.

But everything changed in 2014 when, crippled by back pain that forced him out of a tournament in Florida, he underwent back surgery in the form of a microdiscectomy. He has never been the same since.

Two further back surgeries later, expectations these days about the former world number one are much more muted.

Instead of discussion about whether Woods will win four or five more majors, talk has turned to whether he will even win another regular tournament, let alone one of the big four.

No longer is winning the 'be all and end all'. Having a healthy body is priority number one.

"Even if I don't come back and I don't play again, I still want to have a quality of life with my kids. I started to lose that with the other surgeries," Woods told Time magazine in early December.   Continued...

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods smiles during a golf clinic in Mexico City October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido