Monaco - Tiger Woods was on the path to becoming the greatest golfer to have ever played the game, but that is unlikely to happen now.
That is the view of South African legend Gary Player, who was speaking in Monaco ahead of this week's Laureus World Sports Awards.
Woods, the winner of 14 majors, has slipped to 693rd in the world.
He has battled a back injury in recent years and played his first PGA Tour event in 17 months at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.
He missed the cut there, but when he pulled out of the Dubai Desert Classic after just one round two weeks ago, the Woods comeback began to look more improbably than ever.
"He was on his way to being the best player that ever lived, and I don’t think that’s going to happen now," Player told journalists.
"I hope I’m wrong. We need Tiger Woods to be a champion because he brings more people and more media and more sponsors, which is essential."
“He won the US Open by 15 shots and when you think about that ... it’s more impressive than Usain Bolt winning a gold medal over 100m. You’re not beating 7 or 8 guys in a race, you’re beating 156 guys. And you’re not running at the same time, you’re playing at different times.
"He was going to break every single record that ever existed. He would have gone down as the greatest golfer we have ever seen."
Player said too many golf lessons, injuries and personal problems all combined to hurt Woods' chances of overtaking Jack Nicklaus (18) as the winner of the most majors ever.
"Do I think he’ll go past Nicklaus in majors? I don’t think so. I hope he does, but I don’t think so," Player said.
"He’s got a big, big challenge ahead of him. When you a lay-off that long, with the difficulties he’s encountered, and his swing has changed so much ... he’s got a big challenge.
"I would not venture to say that he won’t win another tournament ... that would stupid to say. But it’s a monumental challenge."