By Brian Keogh
Tiger Woods. Photo by Golffile
When Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from basketball in 2015, the ill-fated Los Angeles Lakers star penned a poem — "Dear Basketball" — bidding the game farewell.
"My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it's time to say goodbye.
And that's OK.
I'm ready to let you go."
Just 13 months ago, Bryant's helicopter crashed into a California hillside, killing him, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, six family friends and the pilot.
It's just a 40-minute drive from the bend in the road where Tiger Woods flipped his car and careered through a street sign and a tree on Tuesday morning—but having miraculously escaped with his life, what now for the greatest golfer ever to play the game?
One suspects there will be no poems penned by Woods and Mark Steinberg when the time comes for the Californian (45) to hang up his spikes.
But as he lies today in a Los Angeles hospital, metal rods and pins holding the multiple fractures in his right leg and his shattered ankle in place, he could be forgiven for thinking that it might just be time to say goodbye.
Forgetting for a moment that he had a fifth microdiscectomy on his back in December, it will clearly be months before he is capable of standing, let alone play golf at a level that would trouble the new breed of super athletes currently dominating the tour.
Knowing Woods as we do, the 15-time Major winner may well decide to put up with the pain and agony, the months of rehab and the take that gruelling hike back up that hill towards a possible 16th Major win or the elusive 83rd victory he needs to edge past Sam Snead as the player with most PGA Tour victories.
As the ultra competitor he is, Woods may well feel it's worth the effort, if physically possible, given his age and his ailing body.
But while Bryant could say that he and basketball had "given each other all we have", one can't secretly help wondering if it's not time for Woods to concede that his journey with golf has also reached the same stage.
If he finishes his career with 15 Majors to Jack Nicklaus' 18, he will still be regarded as the greatest player the game has ever seen.
What's left to prove for a man whose life has been played out for the world like a movie since he was a child?
After all, he came back from the depths of despair following the scandals of 2009 and the opioid addiction of 2017 to win the 2018 Tour Championship with thousands of adoring fans marching with him to victory.
He then topped that stunning feat by winning the Masters in such incredible fashion two years ago that he has in truth, already enjoyed an epic swansong.
While the police insist there was no evidence of impairment in Tuesday's crash, there will be more speculation about his problems with painkilling drugs, leading to more scrutiny for him and his family.
His life has already been lived in a goldfish bowl.
He's single-handedly reinvented the tour — purses have soared from $101 million in 1996 to a record $363 million in 2018—and made golf cool.
He owes the game and the fans nothing and given up everything in return.
"I've seen it first-hand," Rory McIlroy said in 2017. "I've seen what his life is like in Florida. I've played golf with him and said, 'What are you doing tonight? Do you want to come and have dinner with us?' And he can't. He just can't. And for me, that's unfathomable. I could not live like that.
"I could not live like that. If someone was to say, 'You can have 14 majors and 70 wins but have to deal with that, or nine majors and 40 wins and stay somewhat the same as you are,' I'd take the second option all day."
Pádraig Harrington said just last week that he feared Woods would be even more dangerous in the Ryder Cup because he's now a double threat. He's still Tiger Woods for all that means — an inspirational figure and brilliant golfer.
But he's also mellowed to such an extent he's become a sounding board for a new generation of stars.
"If he's prepared to give that of himself, I think his team would fall in behind him," Harrington said. "So that is a worrying area for me, for sure."
Whether Woods is strapped to a golf cart by Steve Stricker and Team USA and roams Whistling Straits like a star-spangled El Cid remains to be seen.
Having already achieved golfing immortality and completed the greatest comeback ever seen, what's left to prove for the man who has already achieved the impossible?