Tiger Woods back for Quicken

ByBob Harig ESPN logo
Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tiger Woods will return next week at the PGA Tour event near Washington, D.C., 12 weeks after having surgery on his back.

Woods announced the decision Friday afternoon via his Facebook account, acknowledging that he will be "a bit rusty'' for the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club.

The tournament, in its eighth year, benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and has a new title sponsor. That likely has something to do with Woods' decision to try and play, though his agent, Mark Steinberg, said in an interview Friday night that the golfer would not risk his health for the event.

"It's a fair question,'' Steinberg said. "I would tell you that he was coming up to Quicken Loans and Congressional no matter, and was going to be a presence there for the week. The way I know him, I think it's just a massive benefit that it happens to be the same week as his tournament that the doctors have said you're ready to go. If the doctors had said you're still a couple of weeks away, he would not be there (to play).

"He listened and adhered to everything his doctors and trainers told him intently. It would be so counterproductive to go against that at the 11th-and-a-half hour.''

Steinberg would not commit to any events beyond the Quicken Loans, but getting ready for the Open Championship next month at Royal Liverpool, where he won the last of his three Claret Jugs in 2006, would be an obvious reason for trying to get used to tournament golf again.

"After a lot of therapy I have recovered well and will be supporting my foundation next week at the Quicken Loans National,'' Woods said in the Facebook post. "I've just started to hit full shots but it's time to take the next step. I will be a bit rusty but I want to play myself back into competitive shape. Excited for the challenge ahead.''

Woods, 38, had a procedure called a microdiscectomy on March 31 to alleviate a pinched nerve in his back. He had played just four times in 2014, with lackluster results. Woods had back problems late last year, but they first became apparent again on March 2 during the final round of the Honda Classic. He withdrew following 13 holes.

A week later, Woods returned for the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where he fired a 66 during the third round to get into contention. But the back issues got worse the next day as Woods shot 78 and failed to make a birdie. He tied for 25th and hasn't played since.

He missed the Masters for the first time in his professional career as well as last week's U.S. Open. He has missed six major championships over the past six years.

At a media day for the Quicken Loans event last month, Woods said he had yet to begin hitting full shots and that the discomfort associated with his back problems prior to surgery had him questioning his future.

"The time right before the surgery, I really couldn't do much,'' Woods said. "Getting out of bed was a task, and forget about playing golf at the highest level. I couldn't get out of bed. So yeah, I was certainly doubtful at that point.

"What was I going to feel like? Am I going to be pain free? Am I actually going to be able to do this again where I can get out of bed and go out there and play with my kids and play golf?

"All those things are up in the air. But after I had the procedure, it was immediate relief, and it's just a matter of getting through that pain part. It wasn't the shocking pain or debilitating pain, it was just pain from the surgery, from the incision, but it wasn't like it was right before.''

The last of Woods' 79 victories came in August at the Bridgestone Invitational. The following week he experienced back pain at the PGA Championship and again two weeks later at the Barclays.

Woods' offseason was spent trying to manage the back problems and prepare for 2014, all of which went awry just three tournaments into the season.

Now, if he remains healthy, he brings back into play two major championships as well as qualifying for the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, as well as showing U.S. captain Tom Watson that he is fit to play the Ryder Cup in September.

"If you're actually adhering to and listening to the people that know better than you do, it really doesn't matter what makes you antsy about getting back to golf,'' Steinberg said. "You just have to stay the course. As he said, it was about chipping and putting and then it was about extending that, maybe 5 yards or 10 years as a time. So long as there is no discomfort or pain, you just continue down that path. Fortunately he's had no setbacks whatsoever.''

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