Questions remain following Tiger's recent surgery
April 20, 2017
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- Tiger Woods announced on his website Thursday that he had successfully undergone his fourth back surgery. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods was announcing his latest course-design project in Ridgedale, Missouri, earlier this week when he joked about anticipating his PGA TOUR Champions eligibility. At 41, he still has a long wait before he’s 50.
But with Thursday’s news, announced on his website, that Woods has undergone successful back fusion surgery—his fourth back operation in three years—the question is whether he will be well enough by then to swing a club.
“The surgery went well, and I’m optimistic this will relieve my back spasms and pain,” said Woods, who missed the Masters two weeks ago and hasn’t teed it up since withdrawing from the Dubai Desert Classic in February.
If you’re having a feeling of déjà vu, you’re not alone. Woods said much the same thing after his first back operation in March of 2014, and his second and third operations in September and October of 2015—sidelining him for all of 2016.
At 79-time winner on the PGA TOUR, with career earnings of $110 million, he won five times as recently as 2013. Those were the good, old days.
Back then, the question was whether and when Woods would add to his total of 14 major championship victories. (His last came at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.) Today, the question is when Woods will be well enough to get back to the course. In place of watching him play, we get the usual will he/won’t he speculation about whether he will play in the Masters. (He has missed three of the last four.) We see him on a media tour for coauthoring a book to commemorate his 1997 victory at Augusta National. We follow his ascendant golf course design business—he will mastermind his first public course in America with Tom Lehman, the announcement for which came earlier this week at Big Cedar Lodge.
After admitting he was too quick to rush back to action after knee, Achilles and back injuries, Woods sat out all of last season. It seemed like a smart move when he shot 73-65-70-76 at the Hero World Challenge in December. He swung hard and seemed to be on the precipice of a long-awaited comeback in 2017. He had big plans, with seemingly no regard for long plane rides: He would return to Torrey Pines, where he always wins, doesn’t he? He would go on to play in Dubai, and then return to the Genesis Open, followed by The Honda Classic.
Woods was back!
And then he wasn’t.
He shot 76-72 to miss the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, flew to Dubai only to shoot an opening-round 77, and withdrew with back spasms the next day.
Medically speaking, here is where we are now, as per Woods’s website:
“Due to previous herniations and three surgeries, Woods' bottom lower-back disc severely narrowed, causing sciatica and severe back and leg pain. Conservative therapy, which included rehabilitation, medications, limiting activities and injections, failed as a permanent solution, and Woods opted to have surgery. The procedure was a minimally invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (MIS ALIF) at L5/S1. The surgery entailed removing the damaged disc and re-elevating the collapsed disc space to normal levels. This allows the one vertebrae to heal to the other. The goal is to relieve the pressure on the nerve and to give the nerve the best chance of healing.
“The operation was performed by Dr. Richard Guyer of the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute.”
Got all that? Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Lone Star State, the best players in the world continue to follow the bouncing ball at the Valero Texas Open.
Woods hit a few shots at Big Cedar Lodge earlier this week. As he admitted, one was terrible—it fell short and caromed off the rocks short of what will become the green—and one was “stiff,” about 10 feet away from the pin.
He gave no hint of his coming surgery. He said, “The back is progressing. I have good days and bad days.” Then came Thursday. According to the doctor for Woods’ latest operation, patients typically return to full activity in about six months. Woods thanked his fans for their “kind wishes” and support. Good days and bad days. We can only hope Thursday was one of the former.
Tiger Woods comments on involvement with Big Cedar Lodge golf project