Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Tiger Woods undergoes fifth back surgery

Tiger Woods has undergone a fifth back surgery.

He recently had a microdiscectomy to remove a pressurized disc fragment that gave him nerve pain during last month’s PNC Championship, his TGR Foundation announced Tuesday.

“I look forward to begin training and am focused on getting back out on TOUR,” Woods said in the statement in which his doctors deemed the operation successful and predicted a full recovery.

Woods’ quest for a record 83rd PGA TOUR victory has been put on hold. He announced that he will miss next week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and his own The Genesis Invitational, which he will host at Riviera Country Club on Feb. 18-21. Woods and Sam Snead are tied with 82 career wins, the most in PGA TOUR history.

Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines – seven times in the Farmers, and at the 2008 U.S. Open – but remains winless at Riviera, where he played his first PGA TOUR event. Woods will be at Riviera next month to serve as tournament host, according to Tuesday’s release.

Woods underwent his fourth back surgery, a spinal fusion, in early 2017. He returned in 2018, contending for multiple titles before winning the TOUR Championship at East Lake. He won The Masters Tournament and ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in 2019, when he was also the playing captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup Team, leading a dozen of the best American players to victory at Royal Melbourne while also going 3-0-0 himself. Since then, however, he’s gone largely quiet.

His 45th birthday last month was an occasion to step back and appreciate not only his 82 victories, but also his 31 seconds, 19 thirds, and 199 top-10 finishes in 368 starts. He has an 11-1 career playoff record, and earnings of nearly $121 million.

But his 1,322 rounds on TOUR have taken a toll.

Woods, who has also endured multiple operations on his left knee, had but one top-10 finish in the 2020 calendar year – a T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open. Worn out by 2019, and experiencing stiffness in his back, he skipped the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, which he’s won eight times; The Honda Classic, his hometown tournament; and THE PLAYERS Championship (two-time champion).

Then came the pandemic.

Returning at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide in July, he finished T40 and did not contend elsewhere, either. His T72 at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD, a course where he’d won the Hero World Challenge five times, said it all. 

“I haven’t put all the pieces together at the same time,” he said before the Masters in November. 

He didn’t put the pieces together at Augusta, either. Tied for 10th after an opening-round 68, he faded to the finish, and his 10 at the 12th hole in the final round – where he hit three balls in the water — was the highest score of his career. Although he bounced back with birdies on five of the last six holes, he still shot 76 and finished T38 to cap a largely forgettable year.

At the PNC Championship last month, he opted not to hit a tee shot on a handful of holes where his partner, 11-year-old son Charlie, was already in play well down the fairway. 

“He’s a very young man, but he is predisposed to a few injuries, too, and we’ve seen that,” Padraig Harrington, 49, said then. “Some weeks he doesn’t look like he could be competitive, but the weeks that he does come out and is walking that bit better, he’s a big contender.”

What he’ll have left after stepping aside to heal once more remains to be seen.

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