PARAMUS, N.J. — Tiger Woods has, on several occasions this year, noted how fortunate he feels to be playing golf at a high level again.
A year ago, Woods said, he wasn’t allowed to swing a golf club. And just a few months prior to that, he was in so much pain that the idea of playing again was far from his mind.
Woods dived a little deeper into that subject Wednesday when asked about comments made by six-time major winner Nick Faldo, who told radio host Dan Patrick that he overheard Woods at the 2017 Masters dinner for past champions say that he was “done” and that “I won’t play golf again.”
“At that time, I was done,” Woods said during the Northern Trust Pro-Am at Ridgewood Country Club. “I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. I had no golf in my future at that time. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sit.”
Woods, 42, who begins play Thursday morning at the Northern Trust ranked 26th in the world and No. 20 in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings, has come a long way from the 2017 Masters, where he attended the Tuesday night champions dinner at Augusta National with uncertainty about his future.
Earlier in the year, he halted a comeback after just three tournaments due to continued lower back and nerve pain after having sat out all of 2016 while trying to recover from three microdiscectomy surgeries — the first in 2014, and two in 2015.
He had even tried to get ready for that year’s Masters, but he determined he was unfit to play golf. And he was still unsure what he would do going forward. Woods said he had yet to decide on the spinal fusion surgery that he ended up having two weeks later.
“I left from there to go see a specialist about what are my options,” Woods said.
Upon the advice of Jack Nicklaus, Woods first visited with a physical therapist named Pete Egoscue, but ultimately decided on surgery. And once that decision was made, Woods didn’t waste much time. The surgery, by Dr. Richard Guyer of the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute, was performed on April 19, 2017.
“I wasn’t confident; I was having a fusion,” Woods said. “At the time, I needed to try and get rid of the pain. It wasn’t so much about golf. I tried everything. I tried stem cell. I tried Lidocaine. I tried Marcaine, nerve block. Nothing took the pain away.”
Woods was told he would need six months for the fusion to take hold, and he wasn’t permitted to swing a golf club during that time. At last September’s Presidents Cup, where Woods made one of his first public appearances after the surgery and a rehab stint to deal with prescription pain medication issues, he said, “I don’t know what my future holds.”
Now he’s played in 14 PGA Tour events, with two runner-up finishes, five top-10s and a good chance to make the Tour Championship. He is also expected to be picked for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“What he’s been able to do is unbelievable, remarkable,” Faldo, a CBS and Golf Channel analyst, told Patrick. “To go from a frozen back, I know he whispered to another Masters champion two Masters dinners ago, ‘I’m done. I won’t play golf again.’ And here we are 18 months later.”