There are just a few athletes in the world that you can name and everyone will recognize, regardless of whether or not they pay attention to sports. Tiger Woods is one of these athletes.

For the last 20 years, Woods has captured the attention of audiences around the globe. He has found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated and People magazine (though he’s probably not too proud of the People cover). According to the biography on his personal website, “he has had an unprecedented career since becoming a professional golfer in the late summer of 1996. He has won 105 tournaments, 79 of those on the PGA tour … Tiger became the first ever to hold all four professional major championships at the same time.”

Golf was Tiger’s domain for so many years. His biggest competitor in these tournaments was almost always himself. Every young golfer aspired to be like him. Now, however, times are changing. Tiger has not won a PGA tournament in more than two years and hasn’t won a major tournament in as many as seven years, Golf.com reports. The press is now littered with names like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, and when Woods is mentioned it is usually because he is not playing.

Following a second back surgery, people are wondering if Tiger Woods might be gone from the game for good. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

After a second back surgery people are wondering if Tiger Woods might be gone from the game for good. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Woods’ 40th birthday is rapidly approaching, and with the latest announcement that he would not be returning to the course until 2016 due to back surgery many are wondering if Woods should depart the golf course for good. In a recent Golf.com article, author Gary Van Sickle writes, “some observers think he doesn’t practice like he used to, either because he physically can’t or he simply not longer wants it the way he used to.” In a statement on Woods’ personal website, he says, “this is certainly disappointing, but I’m a fighter. I’ve been told I can make a full recovery, and I have no doubt that I will.”

One of the saddest things is watching an athlete struggle to keep playing long after they have been surpassed by their younger counterparts. This is what is happening to Woods. While coming to terms with your own retirement is probably the hardest thing an athlete has to do, it is part of the job even when you were once considered the best in the world.

When Woods’ finally pulls the plug on his career it will be a sad day for athletes everywhere. Woods’ performance on the course has dominated public conversation for 20 years. He has been the golfer to watch for so long that it will inevitably change the landscape of golf. In fact, the landscape is already changing, and golf enthusiasts can see a bright future ahead with all of the young talent showcased in recent tournaments.

So Woods, while it will be sad to see you go, the game of golf and the courses you once called your own are in good hands.