Tiger Woods announced Thursday via a post on his website that he has undergone successful back surgery to alleviate ongoing pain in his back and leg.
This is Woods’ fourth back surgery, with all of the procedures coming in the last four years. Per the post on Tigerwoods.com, Woods will now rest for several weeks, then begin therapy and treatment.
According to Woods’ site, this procedure, an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion at L5/S1, typically means six months is needed before a return to full activity.
With that timeline, Woods is probably out for the remainder of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season – the final event of the campaign is five months from now with the Tour Championship being contested from Sept. 21-24.
The 14-time major champion offered an air of positivity, though, despite another setback.
“The surgery went well, and I’m optimistic this will relieve my back spasms and pain,” Woods said via his website. “When healed, I look forward to getting back to a normal life, playing with my kids, competing in professional golf and living without the pain I have been battling so long.”
Woods originally missed 16 months of competitive action from August 2015 to December 2016 after undergoing his second and third back surgeries in the fall of 2015.
Due to those previous surgeries and herniations, Woods had his bottom lower-back disc severely narrowed, causing sciatica and severe back and leg pain.
A fourth surgery became necessary when therapy involving rehab, medication, injection and limited activities wasn’t working as a permanent solution.
This latest surgery, performed by Dr. Richard Guyer of the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute, entailed removing the damaged lower-back disc and re-elevating the collapsed disc space to normal levels.
Per Woods’ website, “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.”
All signs now seem to point to Woods’ 2017 being a lost cause. With the 41-year-old nowhere close to being in position to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, he would essentially need to play by the Wyndham Championship (played from Aug. 17-20) to compete in another PGA Tour event this season. That would mean coming back in four months, when his expected timeline is six months to full recovery.
This is yet another disappointment for many golf fans – it’s been a gradual escalation in bad news this year with Woods.
When Woods returned to golf in December at the Hero World Challenge, he looked rejuvenated in a 24-birdie performance.
But it all went downhill from there, and swiftly. Woods missed the cut in his official PGA Tour return the following month at the Farmers Insurance Open. The very next week, in early February, Woods opened in a birdie-less 77 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and withdrew prior to the start of the second round due to a lower back spasm.
He hadn’t played a competitive golf round since, cancelling expected starts at the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic. He even withdrew himself from doing a press conference at the Genesis Open, as doctors advised him to “stay horizontal.”
Woods would eventually withdraw from the Masters prior to the event but seemed to offer hope in that announcement that his return wasn’t far off. His long-time friend Notah Begay III noted during Masters week that he felt Woods could return to competitive golf in May.
But that hope has floundered. Woods was actually last seen in public just two days ago, as he was at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo., on Tuesday to announce his first public course design. He even hit shots at the event, but it certainly wasn’t a good sign when he dumped a sand wedge in the water on his first attempt.
Woods offered gratitude Thursday for the support he’s continued to receive in these tough times.
“I would like to thank all the fans for staying in touch and their kind wishes,” Woods said. “The support I have received has never waned, and it really helps.”
Woods may seem positive, but is this it for him? It’s been asked a lot, but the 14-time major champion keeps having setbacks. He took more than a year off and despite that caution was once again on the shelf within months of returning.
As Woods’ back continues to act up, the question becomes more and more fair. Baring a miracle, we won’t see Woods again the remainder of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season, and who knows when he’ll actually return to competitive action again (if ever).
Woods’ recent saga continues to get tougher to bare. Will Woods be able to make any sort of viable comeback down the road? The answer to that question grows more pessimistic by the day.