In a late Friday afternoon announcement on his own website, Tiger Woods dropped an unexpected bomb on the golf world and revealed that he had another microdiscectomy surgery on his back this week. That is the same procedure performed on his back last spring that caused him to miss his first Masters of a 20-year professional career.
On that occasion, Tiger showed obvious signs of the back trouble. He crumpled to the ground in fall 2013, withdrew from the Honda Classic, and hobbled around Doral before deciding to have surgery.
That operation kept him out through mid-July, when, by his own admission, he came back earlier than he should have to play his own Quicken Loans National event. Tiger was never the same all summer, re-aggravating his back at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and then grimacing around the PGA Championship before exiting after two days with a missed cut.
There was no real indication that Tiger's back was bothering him this year, the worst of his career. At times, he would labor around the course or lean on his club while walking up the fairway but he always denied that there was anything bothering him with his back -- he was just older, fatigued, and generally beat up. He mentioned a hip issue at his last start in the Wyndham Championship in mid-August, but said his back was fine.
The release on Tiger's website, however, said an examination revealed the pain he was feeling was clearly coming from the back. He used the same doctor, who said "the decision was made to remove a small disc fragment that was pinching his nerve." Woods expressed regret at yet another injury setback and, as usual, vowed to be back on Tour.
"This is certainly disappointing, but I'm a fighter ... I've been told I can make a full recovery, and I have no doubt that I will ... I appreciate the fans' concern and support. This is unfortunate, but these things happen. I've been injured before and played again. It won't be any different this time."
In contrast with last year, this surgery obviously comes at a more fallow stretch of his schedule. He's not in the FedExCup right now and does not have a major until the Masters in April. Woods was committed to the Frys.com Open in mid-October but that's obviously not a possibility. He'll also miss the America's Golf Cup in Mexico, a two-man offseason event he planned to play with Matt Kuchar. Woods did say he would be at his own Hero World Challenge the first week of December, but just as the usual host and not a competitor.
Woods missed almost four months the last time he had this back surgery -- but again, he came back earlier than he said he wanted to so he could play his own event benefiting his own foundation. After coming back, he chopped it up at the British Open, WGC-Bridgestone, and PGA before going quietly away for the rest of 2014. If he sits out four months this time around, that would put the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he often starts his season and plays annually, in jeopardy. That tees off the week of Jan. 28, 2016. It's more likely Tiger returns to play a few events on the Florida swing in late February and March to get ready for the 2016 Masters.
Whenever he returns, we do know that his 2015 is over and even though this year was a disaster on the course, this major back surgery was an unexpected finish to the ugly season.
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