Woods in limbo

Fourth back surgery side­lines Tiger for the rest of the year

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

One day af­ter say­ing his back was pro­gress­ing, Tiger Woods had a fourth surgery to al­le­vi­ate pain — ef­fec­tively can­cel­ing his come­back plans for the rest of this year.

The surgery was on Wed­nes­day at the Texas Back In­sti­tute in Dal­las.

Woods was in Mis­souri on Tues­day to an­nounce plans to de­sign a pub­lic golf course at Big Cedar Lodge, and he even tried hit­ting a few shots to a par 3. The first one rat­tled around in the rocks and the sec­ond shot was about 10 feet from the flag.

Asked about his health dur­ing the cer­e­mony, Woods said he had good days and bad days. Hours later, he flew to Dal­las for fu­sion surgery to cre­ate space in his lower back.

Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment on his web­site said typ­i­cal re­cov­ery from a sin­gle-level fu­sion surgery is six months.

“The surgery went well, and I’m op­ti­mistic this will re­lieve my back spasms and pain,” Woods said.

“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.”

The 41-year-old Woods first had back surgery — a mi­crodis­cec­tomy — a week be­fore the 2014 Masters, and he tried to re­turn in three months. He sat out three months at the end of 2014 to let his body fully heal.

But af­ter a 2015 sea­son in which he missed the cut in three ma­jors, he had back surgery in Septem­ber and an­other pro­ce­dure in Oc­to­ber.

He went 15 months with­out com­pe­ti­tion be­fore re­turn­ing in De­cem­ber at his Hero World Chal­lenge in the Ba­hamas, where he made 24 birdies in 72 holes and swung freely.

Woods then missed the cut at Tor­rey Pines in Jan­uary, and he with­drew from the Dubai Desert Clas­sic on Feb 3 af­ter open­ing with a 77, cit­ing back spasms.

“You see him in the Ba­hamas, and he looked pretty good,” said Mark Stein­berg, Woods’ agent at Ex­cel Sports Man­age­ment.

“And then you see him in Dubai. It can hap­pen any time. You heard him say two days ago, ‘I have good days and bad days.’ This surgery, we hope, elim­i­nates the bad days.”

Ques­tions about the 14-time ma­jor cham­pion have shifted from if he will win an­other ma­jor to if he will even play one.

The state­ment on his web­site said Woods’ bot­tom disc in his lower back has se­verely nar­rowed, caus­ing sci­at­ica and se­vere pain in his back and legs.

Woods opted for a fourth surgery when more con­ser­va­tive ther­apy, such as rest and in­jec­tions, failed to solve any­thing.

“He con­sulted with a num­ber of top peo­ple that had rec­om­mended this was the way to go if he wanted a clear and fi­nal path,” Stein­berg said.

“Ev­ery­thing he had done in the past was a tem­po­rary fix, so to speak. At that point, they thought there were other al­ter­na­tives to fu­sion.”

Stein­berg said they were ad­vised fu­sion surgery was the best op­tion if Woods wanted an ac­tive lifestyle and was will­ing

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.” Tiger Woods, on his lat­est surgery

to sit out the rest of the sea­son.

“He should be bet­ter than he’s been in the past five years,” Stein­berg said. “He’s pretty en­cour­aged.”

Woods’ first surgery in 2014 was in Park City, Utah, by neu­ro­sur­geon Charles Rich, who also did the sec­ond oper­a­tion. This is the first time Woods has gone to the Texas Back In­sti­tute.

Woods won his 79th PGA Tour event in Au­gust 2013 at the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional. Three weeks later, he was in con­tention late in the fi­nal round at the Bar­clays when he dropped to his knees af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing what he de­scribed as back spasms.

Woods is ex­empt for life at the Masters and PGA Champi- on­ship, and un­til he is 60 at the Bri­tish Open.

He has a 10-year ex­emp­tion for the US Open from his 2008 vic­tory at Tor­rey Pines, which was his 14th and last ma­jor. He had re­con­struc­tive knee surgery a week later.

Woods has started just 19 events world­wide since that first back surgery, and has com­pleted 72 holes in just nine of them. His best fin­ish was a tie for 10th in the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship in Au­gust 2015, a month be­fore his sec­ond back surgery.

With so many in­juries and in­ac­tiv­ity, Woods now is No 788 in the world rank­ings.

AP FILE

A fourth back surgery has side­lined former world No 1 Tiger Woods for the rest of this year.

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