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Tiger Woods holds his first news conference since his Feb. 23 car crash at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in Nassau, Bahamas, on Nov. 30.Doug Ferguson/The Associated Press

On Tuesday, more than 10 months after shattering his right leg in a car accident, Tiger Woods tried to retire.

In his first public presser since the crash, he explained to reporters how bad it had been. How he had no memory of the crash. How he spent three months stuck in a hospital bed afterward. How amputation had been “on the table” as an option.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” Woods said. “But also to have the limb.”

When a soon-to-be 46-year-old pro athlete tells you he feels fortunate that all his appendages are still attached, that’s him telling you his time as an elite competitor is over.

But no one wanted to hear it.

Instead, questioners focused on a small chunk of an interview Woods had given Golf Digest the day before: “I think something that is realistic is playing the Tour one day – never full-time ever again – but pick and choose, just like Mr. [Ben] Hogan did.”

It was the mention of Hogan that got people excited. Like Woods, he was also grievously injured in a mid-career automobile accident. Hogan went on to win more majors.

But Hogan was a decade younger. He hadn’t already had – as Woods has – five reconstructive knee operations and five spinal surgeries, including a fusion. Comparing the situations isn’t apples and oranges. It’s apples and rocks.

Woods detailed all the incremental steps that led him back from his last major surgery to a borderline miraculous victory at the Masters in 2019.

“I don’t see that type of trend going forward for me. I won’t have the opportunity to practise, given the condition of my leg, and build up. I just don’t. It’s going to have to be a different way. And I’m at peace with that. I’ve made the climb enough times.”

That isn’t a promise to others. It’s a eulogy for himself. Without saying the actual word, that’s Woods quitting. If he plays golf any more, he’ll play golf like guys on the senior tour play golf – a lot better than you and nowhere close to the best.

But having been told that the prospects for another comeback are close to nil, reporters decided to hear there’s still a chance.

Someone asked if he could narrow down the tournament he might return at, and began listing events. Woods, starting to look frustrated, waved him off.

A British reporter mentioned next year’s British Open at St. Andrews: “How much would that be an event you’d like to be ready for?”

Woods, audibly pumping the guy’s brakes: “I would love to be able to play that Open Championship. I need to get there first, okay?”

Thirty seconds later, the banner running under the live presser flipped – “TIGER WOODS ON RECOVERY: ‘I’D LOVE TO PLAY ST. ANDREWS’ ”

Part of this is Woods’s fault. If he could bring himself to say, “I’m done” and then see if he can recover enough to play the occasional round at the occasional tournament, that would relieve the pressure. But he couldn’t do it.

So it’s up to golf to let Woods go. And it is even less able to say goodbye.

What is it about Woods that people cling to so desperately? It’s that he is a human avatar of an increasingly distant golden age.

If you had to pick out the most transcendent moments in golf history, five or six of the top 10 would involve Woods. Most of those would be clustered around the late nineties/early aughts. That’s when, for the first and last time, golf was cool. Crowds swooned, people of all backgrounds flocked to the game, the money was pouring in.

For an instant, Woods wasn’t just the most famous athlete alive. He was a source of hope and a symbol of progress. It isn’t going too far to say he embodied the egalitarian promise of the new century.

It is hard to accept that’s over and that golf will never see its like again. As sports tragedies go, it’s not one anyone should cry over. But it’s a tragedy nonetheless. It’s right to feel a sense of loss. But at some point, everyone has to move on.

What became clear on Tuesday is that the problem isn’t Woods hanging on past his sell-by date. It’s other people hanging on to him.

The entire golfing world has got hold of his pant leg. That puts it on Woods to drag everyone out of the fantasy that a middle-aged guy with a broken body can make himself a fully fit 25-year-old again just by wanting it badly enough. I would suggest the fantasy runs far deeper. That Woods reminds us all of a time when it felt like everything was okay. In the West, it’s been a minute since Woods won the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes. Pre-9/11. Pre-2008 financial crisis. Pre-Donald Trump, pre-climate emergency and pre-George Floyd.

Our times are never innocent. Someone is always being crushed under the wheel of power. But Tiger Woods’s glory days seemed as close as we got to the universal Kumbaya in recent history.

That’s what people can’t give up. As long as Woods is still around, then it feels like that moment could return. We know it won’t, but still.

Meanwhile, Woods continues trudging forward. If anyone cared to listen, what he was trying to say was that he would like to stay around golf without feeling the pressure to be really good at it. He just wants a little comfort from the game.

He only really tightened on Tuesday when people asked him to look backward. Repeated questions about the February’s car crash were tersely avoided.

Someone finally asked him if it was fair to say he wanted to keep the details of that event private.

“I kinda feel that about most of my life,” Woods said, and you noticed how tired he looks. “Doesn’t really work out that way.”