World-renowned golfer Tiger Woods turned 40 years old Wednesday, amid lingering questions about his future on the professional circuit.
The greatest player of his generation and arguably of all time, Woods has not won a tournament since 2013 and a major since 2008. Once the world's number-one ranked golfer for nearly 700 weeks, he has plummeted to 414th in rankings.
Woods, plagued in recent years by personal scandal and multiple knee and back surgeries, and struggling with a new swing, has given mixed signals about whether he will ever play again.
In an interview last month with Time magazine, he acknowledged that he has reconciled himself to not playing again if it comes to that. But in a recent blog posting on the PGA Tour website, he sounded more upbeat, saying he looks forward to returning to competition in 2016. This week, when asked where he sees himself in five or 10 years, Woods responded: "Still playing golf at the highest level and winning tournaments and major championships."
Kuan Kuo, a commentator for the Golf Channel, told VOA it is "sad" for him to think of golf without Woods, winner of 79 PGA tournaments, including 14 majors, second only to the 18 of Jack Nicklaus.
"For us, we've been seeing him since he turned pro in 1997, won the Master's at a very young age of 21," Kuo said. "He had really brought the game across the globe pretty much because he's a mixed race, and a lot of people can associate with him. I think a lot of Asian people see him as Asian, African-Americans see him as African-American. Basically he was such a young prodigy, he brought the game of golf to the young crowd."
Nicklaus refuses to write Woods off, calling him "very focused...with a great work ethic...and tremendously talented." The 75-year old Nicklaus said to count Woods out of achieving the goal of winning 18 major tournaments in his career would be foolish.
Kuo said other golf icons such as Nicklaus have thrived in the sport after turning 40.
"Yes, indeed. Jack had won major championships after 40, and you look at Davis Love III, still very competitive in the PGA events, Fred Couples, senior PGA events, they are still very, very active," Kuo said. "Freddie Couples has a bad back as well. But Tiger at age 40 talking about not playing golf, or not looking forward to that, it's just sad."
Kuo noted that Woods is taking classes in golf course design and could become a course architect if he decides to walk away from the game.
VOA's Mike Richman contributed to this report.