After more than three weeks of recovery time Tiger Woods is back on his feet and doing some light chipping and putting work, according to his agent Mark Steinberg. Steinberg added that there have been no setbacks in Woods’ recovery from a microdiscectomy on March 31 to relieve the pain from a pinched nerve in his back.
Woods missed the Masters Tournament in April for the first time in 20 years after his back pain severely limited his game in two events leading up to Augusta. In an interview with ESPN.com, Steinberg said that Tiger was doing “a little bit more” each day, and had progressed to the point where he could handle working on some easy chipping and putting. He added that Woods was “on schedule” but at this point no one knows what the schedule is. As for playing competitively again, the only thing Woods’ agent would say is “this summer,” and that as he progresses, the doctors will get more and more clues about setting a specific date for the No.1 golfer’s return to the PGA Tour.
The first sign of trouble with Woods’ back this year came Mar. 2 when he withdrew in the final round because of the pain. He tried to come back the next week and was in contention at the WGC Cadillac Championship after a third round 66. Tiger gutted out the final round but it was clear he was not 100 percent, shooting 78 on Sunday without a birdie. The strongest indicator of how serious the injury was came two weeks later when Woods withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational before the tournament began.
According to Steinberg the pain that Woods had from the pinched nerve is gone, and the only pain he is experiencing now is from the surgery. His agent said Tiger is taking a “very responsible approach” to his rehabilitation, stressing that his team is looking at the next 10 to 15 years rather than the immediate future. In other words, if Woods needs to take an extra two to three weeks, “he will.”
The absence of Tiger Woods is not only a disappointment to golf fans around the world; it is also a blow to the economic health of golf as a whole. Josh Sens of Golf.com estimates that if Tiger Woods continues to sit on the sidelines, it would cost the game of golf $15 billion. Sens’ figure is a rough estimate based on television ratings drops of 25-30 percent when Woods is not playing combined with analysts’ figures that put the worth of the golf industry at $68.8 billion.
The next big event for the PGA comes in two weeks at the Players Championships May 8-11 at the Players Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra, FL. The next major tournament is the U.S. Open, June 19-22 at Pinehurst, NC. With Tiger Woods in rehab and doing light work just this week, he will not be playing either. If Woods is indeed looking at rehab from his back injury from a long-term view, his return “this summer” could easily turn into “this fall.” The U.S. could sure use him at the Ryder Cup.
Golf Shots is a daily series which provides analysis and commentary on the PGA tour and golf-related topics all year long.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky