Golf: No dates set in stone for Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge on Dec 2. It was his first competitive appearance since February, having undergone spinal fusion surgery after pulling out of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge on Dec 2. It was his first competitive appearance since February, having undergone spinal fusion surgery after pulling out of the Dubai Desert Classic.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS

Former world No. 1 remains hopeful his back can hold up to allow him to commit to events

LOS ANGELES • Tiger Woods said on Friday that he hopes to play a full 2018 schedule, while at the same time declining to commit even to competing in February's Genesis Open which is run by his foundation.

Writing a year-end blog on his website on the eve of his 42nd birthday, Woods was generally upbeat about the condition of his surgically repaired back, but what he did not say was perhaps just as significant.

"One way or another, I will be at Riviera," the 14-time Major champion wrote of the annual US PGA Tour event.

"It's such a historic site and the course will always have special meaning for me. That's where it all started back in 1992 when I played in my first PGA Tour event at age 16."

In February this year, Woods withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic because of a back spasm.

He made his latest comeback at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month in the Bahamas, eight months after undergoing a spinal fusion.

While his performance - he finished joint-ninth on the 18-player leaderboard - was competent and he swung with apparent freedom, Woods acknowledged that he was in uncharted waters.

"Now, I feel I've taken it to another level. I'm continuing to progress and trying to get strong enough to where I can handle a workload again," he wrote.

"I would love to play a full schedule in 2018. What that entails, including back-to-back events, I don't know. I just have to continue to work on my body and game and see where I pan out.

"I wish I knew where I was going to play and when I was going to play - it's a lot easier to prep for that - but we really don't know."

He also acknowledged that his swing had changed.

"My swing is definitely shorter and I can't turn as far. My back is fused and that's as far as it's going to go. But I was surprised at how explosive I was (at the World Challenge)."

A DIFFERENT GAME NOW

My swing is definitely shorter and I can't turn as far. My back is fused and that's as far as it's going to go. But I was surprised at how explosive I was (at the World Challenge).

TIGER WOODS, former world No. 1 golfer, admitting he has had to change his swing due to his back surgeries.

Woods has endured a challenging time since ending his 2014 season early in order to undergo what turned into multiple back surgeries.

He has played only occasionally since, with a couple of comebacks aborted by continuing pain.

The American decided this year to have two vertebrae in his lower back fused, which basically was an all-or-nothing last-ditch attempt to both ease his pain and allow him to resume playing golf.

The prognosis right now appears to be fairly good, but it has been far from smooth sailing this year for Woods, who in May was arrested asleep at the wheel of his car, with five drugs - including painkillers - in his system.

"I appreciate competitive golf now more than I ever have," he added. "During that 10-month period I was away from the game, I had a hard time walking and needed assistance getting out of bed.

"To go from that and be able to play golf - I hadn't played without pain for a long time - it was nice.

"It's been a year filled with ups and downs, but I am very optimistic about 2018 and looking forward to great things on and off the golf course."

Long-time Woods watchers also wonder if he might tee it up earlier at the Jan 25-28 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines near La Jolla, California.

Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines - including at the 2008 US Open, the most recent of his 14 Major triumphs.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 31, 2017, with the headline 'No dates set in stone for Woods'. Print Edition | Subscribe