Choosing to skip the Masters was an easier decision for Tiger Woods than one might expect: He “just couldn’t make a golf swing,” he says.
Woods underwent a microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve March 31, a significant decision because it took two opportunities for majors appearances — the Masters and the U.S. Open early next month — off his calendar.
“I made the decision to have surgery because physically I just couldn’t make a golf swing,” Woods blogged on TigerWoods.com. “That pretty much sums it up.”
Woods said his recovery is “a very slow process. I’m still sore. Not from the procedure itself but the incision. I just need to get back to my day-to-day activities, and that’s it.”
Woods says he watched quite a bit of the tournament, particularly when Fred Couples was doing well, and congratulated Bubba Watson on his second win.
“Not being able to play in the Masters for the first time wasn’t as hard for me as you might think. I’ve missed major championships before, so this was not a new experience. It helps when I’m physically unable to play the game. That’s when it’s easy for me, and I don’t have a problem watching. It’s when I’m playing and closer to getting back out there is when I start getting real antsy about watching events: ‘Can I play, can I not play?’ But when I’m physically unable to play like in 2008 after my knee surgery, it makes things so much easier.”
The British Open, which starts July 17 in Liverpool, would seem to be the next major on the horizon for him, but even that may be out of reach. The layoff will cost Woods his No. 1 spot in the world rankings, perhaps as early as this weekend. Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Watson have a chance at overtaking him at the Players Championship.
“As for my return to golf, I really don’t know. I’m doing everything I can and listening to my doctors and working on a strength program, and then we just have to see how my back is. Some people heal up in three months, some people take four months, some people take longer. I just don’t know.
“I haven’t used a sand wedge yet. I’ve just done putting and chip-and-runs using the same length of motion. I haven’t really rotated yet. As far as taking a full swing, I have conference calls with my doctors every couple of weeks to see how my progress is and just kind of chart it out from there. Basically, you just follow a program. It’s tedious because it’s little rehab stuff, but you still have to do it. That’s where I think the experiences of having gone through the surgeries in the past have really helped because you have to lay the foundation down first before you can do the more arduous activities and then return to form. I’m walking and able to cycle now and started swimming last week.”
At least Woods has company in the tediously slow process. His girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, is recovering from her second knee surgery in a year. Both have been spending more time with Woods’s son and daughter.
“It does help to rehab with Lindsey [Vonn], but her programs are much further along than mine. That does help when you’re not the only one suffering. It’s a good and bad thing that we’re both rehabbing at the same time. Her sessions are much longer and more developed. Her knee is getting stronger and it’s good to see. She hopes to be ready to compete again in December.
“I’ve been with my kids a ton. It’s been great going to their soccer and T-ball games, practices and just being with them. We went to the Bahamas for spring break, which was fantastic. I’m just trying to stay active, but nothing where I’m pushing it. I’m doing a little coaching, but unfortunately, I can’t play soccer with Sam right now. Prior to the surgery, I was able to play and do some training stuff with her, but I can’t do it because I can’t cut.
“I’ve worked with Charlie on hitting and fielding drills and showing him slowly what to do; I can’t do it quickly. We watch a lot of sports on TV, and we try and copy that. We have a lot of putting contests. I can’t bend down to pick up the ball out of the hole, so we sand-filled all the holes so you can still putt to a hole. He’s getting pretty good and is starting to understand speed and break. That’s not something that is easy to pick up. I have my greens running about 13 on the Stimpmeter every day, so your feel has to be a little better. When we were in the Bahamas, the greens were much slower and he almost beat me. If Sam and Charlie beat me, they’re going to earn it. That’s how Pop was with me, and I think that’s how it should be.”