Tiger Woods Talks Recovery from Back Surgery, Says This Comeback Is 'Different'

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2017

Tiger Woods looks on before the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Tiger Woods spoke at a press conference Tuesday ahead of his comeback at this week's Hero World Championship starting on Thursday.

"This is very different," Woods said of his latest comeback attempt from back issues, per Golfweek.com. "Last year I was still struggling a little bit with pain. ... Looking back on it now, it looked like I was playing in slow-mo."

"I didn't realize the slow, degrading nature of my back and how bad it had gotten to. ... It was a slow process and I just didn't truly understand how far I'd fallen in that regard," he continued.

"I was taking drugs on top of drugs, just trying to kill the nerve pain. Woods said, per Dylan Dethier of Golf Magazine. "It was like someone hitting your body about 200 times a day. And the thing is that I didn't know it was coming."

He's also hoping his back concerns are truly in the past.

"I thought, 'How long will this fused back hold up?'" Woods noted. "My doctor said, 'You'll be good for the rest of your life.' ... That's still trying to sink in."

"The neatest thing for me is to get out of bed and grab a club and not use it as a crutch," he added.

Woods acknowledged that he wasn't sure where his game would be upon his return, however.

"I'm winging this, by ear because I don't know what my body can and can't do yet," he said. "I still don't know."

Woods, 41, didn't play at all in 2016 and barely played last year, missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open and withdrawing from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. His last tournament win came at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Aug. 2013, and he last won a major at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Since March 2014, he's undergone four back surgeries, per Bob Harig of ESPN.com. In that time, he's played in just 17 worldwide tournaments, missing the cut on seven occasions and withdrawing three times. He also hasn't finished as a top-125 player in earnings or in the FedEx Cup standings since 2013.

Woods' historic career has ensured that he'll have the necessary exceptions to play in the majority of golf's top tournaments upon his return, as Harig noted. The question that will linger around the golfing world this season will be whether Woods is able to return to the dominance that saw him win 14 majors between 1997-07, or if he'll continue to struggle.

Patrick Reed, who played nine holes with Woods on Monday, was impressed by what he saw.

"He had pep in his step. He was in high spirits," he told Steve DiMeglio of USA Today. "I was shocked how fluid his swing was and how far the ball was going. He had some speed behind it. He's always been a little longer than me, but some of those drives today, he got it out there. He was hitting the stinger here and there, hitting bunker shots, hitting balls out of the rough ... there just wasn't any hesitation in his body to hit those shots. That's key. If he stays healthy, we'll see Tiger again."