With the extraordinary accomplishments Tiger Woods has on his golfing resume while battling constant health issues, it was discouraging when he revealed he'd be unable to compete in the 2014 Masters Tournament.
Then Woods revealed in a post on his official website that he underwent back surgery to address a pinched nerve—a microdiscectomy, to be precise—which would keep him out for the foreseeable future.
ESPN's Stuart Scott tweeted what many fans were feeling:
In recent years, it's clear that Woods has become more outgoing with the media and hasn't been quite as fiercely private, calculated and non-revelatory as he'd been in the past. However, while he works hard to rehabilitate from this adverse setback at age 38, it is worth noting how other standout golfers have recovered from the same surgery.
That can help give a time frame as to when everyone should expect to see Woods hit the links and tee it up in competition again. He'll be back—hopefully with a stronger and stable back. It's just a matter of when.
Former PGA player and current TV commentator Peter Jacobsen had the same surgery as Woods and feels he's back to 100 percent:
A less aesthetically pleasing portrait is painted by talented Canadian Graham DeLaet, who is arguably the best player on the PGA Tour yet to have a victory on the top circuit. DeLaet underwent the same surgery, and it took him a full year to recover—and four months before he could even hit balls again.
Ryan Lavner of Golf Channel reports what DeLaet had to say about his circumstances:
It was the worst pain in my life...if he had the same surgery I had, then I’m sure he was dealing with the same symptoms I had...When the pain was at its worst, golf was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to live a regular life. I wanted to be able to play catch with my kids.
They always say not to come back until you’re ready, but everybody does. We’re all competitors. We want to compete. But you have to listen to your body...I’m still improving, each day. I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100 percent again.
The biggest concern is that Woods has had so many injury problems in his career that he may be in trouble even if his back does hold up. Intense weight training and a strict regimen away from the course helped Woods achieve outstanding power and aided his efforts to pull off shots unseen before in the game of golf.
However, all of that hard work and the fitness movement Woods drove is serving as both a model and cautionary tale for the up-and-coming stars to emulate. Woods took it to too much of an extreme for sustainability in the latter part of his career.
The refusal of moderation that made him so dominant has been a large part of Woods' lackluster results in major championships since his last triumph at the 2008 U.S. Open.
USA Today's Tim McGarry posted a diagram of all the injuries Woods has piled up over the years:
Woods should have his trademark itch to compete and get back on the course as soon as possible. One of the most positive aspects of this entire ordeal is that Woods has endured long, injury-related layoffs before and come back to flash his legendary form often enough to continue winning at a stunning rate.
As serious as this back injury seems, it sounds as though Woods can make a full recovery. Assuming the rest of his body can hold up and that he doesn't rush back prematurely, Woods is still within striking distance to pass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles.
Staying fit in the back end of his prime shouldn't be a problem for Woods, but he just has to dial down the stress he puts on his body. The back is so critical and that part of the body has undone the careers of many golfers, but Woods has plenty of opportunities ahead of him—even after an impending hiatus of multiple months—to break the major record and leave little doubt as to who the best golfer of all time is.