Despite his not competing in a PGA TOUR event since 2020, speculation is red hot that Tiger Woods may play at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, this week. Tiger’s private jet was spotted at a local airport last week, and he took part in an 18-hole practice round.
It is not surprising to see Woods out on the golf course; he has been gradually increasing his levels of practice and even took part in the PNC Championship in December. However, he hasn’t competed at all this year, and has been clear that he may not ever compete on the PGA TOUR again in a full-time capacity.
Woods’s car crash last February and his subsequent broken leg that came very close to requiring amputation is why he hasn’t played this year, but long before the crash in Los Angeles, Woods had many injury layoffs from the game he loves. Back issues have troubled Tiger for over a decade, and he has had several surgeries on his back within that time.
See also: J.J. Spaun’s Shock Win at Texas Open Was the Last Chance to Make it to Augusta
Board-certified orthopaedic surgeon Dr Rahul Shah recently spoke to the media and explained that Wood’s injury history is “definitely eye-opening” before clarifying that the recovery process is very different for each injury and surgery Tiger has suffered and undergone.
“The truth is you have to take each injury one step at a time. If you kind of chronicle his injuries, you start with multiple bumps and bruises growing up and then he had the significant torquing injury to his back where he blew out one of his discs,” said Dr Shah, who is a specialist in complex spine conditions and minimally invasive surgeries.
“That gave him a problem, and he had to shave that down. Then it happened again, so they did another shave down. But it wasn’t enough, so they had to do surgery to get all of the areas where that disc wasn’t working well to have it fused.
“He recovers from that, and all of these, of course, are salvages to try and get him on his wing. This speaks to the amount of prior runway he had and the amount of ability he had because all of these (injuries) are basically whittling away at his skill.
“Then he gets into this unfortunate (car) accident, and what I can tell from what was leaked to the media, it seemed like it was going to be a while before he came back, and he’s made a significant recovery even faster than expected.”
Woods is very clearly super focused on his recovery and getting back out there on the course to compete. Dr, Shah said that the smaller competitions such as the PDC Championship are all ramping things up to return to the big tournaments.
“Additionally, he’s made some significant progress with regards to playing small games,” Shah said. “There’s nothing like making progress in smaller arenas just to make sure you’re going to be able to make progress in bigger arenas. He recently had that father-son golf game, and he did well.
“I think that, overall, things are going to be more difficult, but he clearly has the skill set and wherewithal and the mental memory (and) the muscle memory that he’s cultivated to be able to give him at least the ability to make progress in some of these tournaments that are coming up.”
The last time Woods competed in a PGA Tournament was the delayed 2020 Masters, which was finally played in November 2020 after being pushed back due to the global pandemic. There is a higher risk of injury when an athlete returns to competitive action after such a lengthy layoff.
“I think his likelihood for injury is higher. Is it catastrophic? The answer is no,” Dr Shah said.
“And the reason is because he’s basically gone through some smaller venues and has made progress and has been able to hold up. That tells you he has the stamina and ability to make progress.
“The real question is will he be able to hit the ball in the way he was able to before getting to where it needs to be. And I think that may not be the perfect comparison or starting point. I think what we need to do is see how he makes progress and use his current games as his new baseline.”
The Masters tees off on April 7th, culminating on April 10th. The reigning and defending champion is Hideki Matsuyama, who beat Will Zalatoris in last year’s event.
See also: Honma TW757: Where Tradition Meets High-Tech