The diagnosis for Tiger Woods' persistent back problems is a bulging disk, but it's fortunately not the type of injury that will require surgery, according to a report from Jeff Rude of Golfweek.
Woods has repeatedly called the injury a back spasms issue, but after continued problems during this month's Florida swing, it was widely believed that there was something more significant going on with the back. The injury this month has carried over from last August, when Woods said he slept on a soft hotel mattress and hobbled through the Barclays and FedExCup with what he termed spasms. The most dramatic moment during that stretch was Sunday at the Barclays, where he noticeably winced after almost every shot and then fell to the ground at one point:
Woods experienced back discomfort at other points during the FedExCup, and at the Presidents Cup in October.
But after an offseason largely spent resting, bulking up, and not playing in golf tournaments, the problem quickly resurfaced in just his second PGA Tour start at the end of February. The Sunday WD at the Honda Classic was followed by an ugly four-day stay at Doral, which he finished with his highest round ever at that event. The 78 was again marked by grimaces of pain after every shot, and he could barely bend over to make a putting stroke and pick up his ball up out of the hole (Hunter Mahan's caddy got it for him at point). The birdie-less round (only the 8th of his career) went off the tracks early, but he said the back injury was re-aggravated specifically on an awkward stance bunker shot at the 6th hole.
After those two unsightly Sundays at previous Florida swing stops, Woods decided he wouldn't even try to give it a go this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he's the defending champ and 8-time winner. In his statement announcing the WD, Tiger again referred to "back spasms" as the ongoing problem.
Tiger also surprisingly brought up the Masters in that statement, saying it was too early to tell if he'd be ready for Augusta. The unexpected mention of the season's first major incited speculation that something more serious was going on that might require surgery and would put him on the shelf for an extended period of time this summer. According to Rude's Golfweek report, this is the kind of herniated disk that won't put Tiger under the knife yet again.
In May of 2010 at the Players Championship, Tiger cited a bulging disk in a his neck as a reason for his WD at TPC Sawgrass. That led to a most unfortunate on-air slip-up by Golf Channel's Win McMurray. This issue appears lower in the back and not the neck, an injury that Woods said at Doral is "no joke."