Golf: Tiger finally gets out of the woods

Tiger Woods underwent fusion surgery on his back in April. It was the fourth such procedure for Woods, who has struggled to stay healthy in recent years.
Tiger Woods underwent fusion surgery on his back in April. It was the fourth such procedure for Woods, who has struggled to stay healthy in recent years.PHOTO: AFP

While doctor clears former world No. 1 for return to golf, agent says no timeline is set

WASHINGTON • Tiger Woods has been cleared to resume full golf activity with no restrictions by the doctor who performed back surgery on the 14-time Major champion in April, ESPN reported on Monday.

According to his agent, Mark Steinberg, the 41-year-old has been cleared to play after a medical check-up last week.

"He got a nice report and is allowed to proceed," Steinberg said.

"He can do as much as he needs to do. Tiger is going to take this very, very slowly. This is good, but he plans to do it the right way."

At the Presidents Cup last month, where Woods was an assistant captain, he told reporters: "I don't know what my future holds for me."

The American added at the time that he was limited to hitting "60-yard shots", but since then he has shared videos on social media showing him ramping up his club length, from mid-irons to driver.

April's fusion surgery on his back represented the fourth such procedure for Woods, who has struggled to stay healthy in recent years.

  • SLOW MO AND STEADY

  • Aug 31

    Tiger Woods gets a wedge of the action in a 28-second video in slow motion: "Dr. gave me the ok to start pitching".

    Oct 7

    A 24-second clip, slow mo again, of himself making some decent cuts: "Smooth iron shots".

    Oct 10

    A second full-swing video within just a couple of days, this time at the Tiger Woods Invitational in California during a clinic with Presidents Cup participant Kevin Chappell.

    Oct 15

    He takes it to driver level with a nine-second clip shot in a tee box: "Making progress".

After playing in 16 PGA Tour events in 2013, winning five and finishing second in the FedExCup standings, he played in just 18 over the next two years combined, with no wins and seven missed cuts.

Woods sat out the entire PGA Tour season last year, then appeared in just two events this season, in December and January, before playing his final competitive round in February at the Dubai Desert Classic.

He cited back spasms in withdrawing from the tournament, then after the surgery, compounded his difficulties by getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in May.

Woods blamed the incident on multiple pain medications he was taking and he entered a DUI diversion programme as part of a plea agreement.

Meanwhile, he was slowly working on his golf game, and he said at the Presidents Cup that, while "the pain's gone", it would "take time to figure out what my capabilities are going forward".

Steinberg told ESPN that he could not be sure that Woods would return to the Hero World Challenge, where he played his first event last December after a long layoff. "We have not even talked about it," he said.

"We will see what each day brings, what each week brings."

A winner of 79 official PGA Tour events, second only to Sam Snead, Woods has not triumphed in a Major since the 2008 US Open.

It does not seem likely at this point that he will come any closer to threatening Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 Majors, but many golf fans would gladly settle for seeing Woods back on the Tour, and he has to be delighted at getting clearance to continue pursuing that goal.

"He has started to hit balls at a more aggressive rate," Steinberg added.

"He feels really good. I think he's excited that he's not feeling pain. That's what gets him excited, being able to bend down and pick up his kids."

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Tiger finally gets out of the woods'. Print Edition | Subscribe