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Tiger Woods' future fades faster with latest back surgery

Golfweek logo Golfweek 4/20/2017 Jeff Babineau

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The PGA Tour is back in Texas this week, and so, too, is Tiger Woods.

Only while most Tour pros in the state are competing at the Valero Texas Open, Woods, at 41, is planning yet another rehab after undergoing what he termed "successful" back surgery to alleviate pain in his back and leg.

This latest operation that Woods underwent typically prohibits its recipients from returning to full activity for roughly six months, according to Dr. Richard Guyer, who performed the surgery at the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute in Plano.

Which, translated, means sometime mid-autumn, best case, when another season will have passed Woods by.

Once we used our hands to count Tiger's major victories, and now we use them to count his surgeries. He now owns as many back surgeries and procedures (four) as Masters' green jackets.

Woods' web site reported that the golfer's surgery "went well," but really, don't they all? If his previous ones had been so good, then why the need for a fourth?

First and foremost, Woods is wished good health and the ability to return to a normal life. The most exciting and impactful player of a generation, maybe of all time, said that he wants to be healthy again so that he can get back to playing with his children, and so that he may return to professional competition "without the pain I have been battling so long."

He has many years ahead to enjoy with his kids. As for the golf part of the equation? It continues to get murkier and more distant every time he gets wheeled into a new surgery. Woods hasn't played a full season since 2013, when he won five times and was the PGA Tour player of the year, and his stop-and-go career ever since has not been very impressive. It has been filled with missed cuts and WDs and far more questions than answers.

In December, competing in his own Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, Woods appeared to be a man capable of building some momentum. All of his speed had not returned, but he was hitting drives past Ryder Cuppers Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler, and he was making birdies in windy conditions, tying for most made (24) in the entire field.

He teed it up in late January at Torrey Pines, a place he once owned, and where he won his last major title in 2008, and appeared tentative, holding back on the swing. He played two rounds and missed the cut, and outwardly appeared 10 years older than he had in the sunshine of the Bahamas. Across the globe in Dubai a week later, he again appeared as if he'd aged overnight, shuffling through the sand as a man who looked to be in considerable pain. He played one round, failed to record a birdie, struggled to 77, and withdrew.

And now this latest news flash. Tiger Woods, on the shelf once again. Unfortunately, it's getting to be a pretty regular storyline.

Surely golf is better with Woods at the wheel, but we are getting pretty accustomed to seeing young stars step up, and each time they do, Woods and his incredible two-decade run move farther back in the memory bank.

In what has become the standard, Woods used his own web site, TigerWoods.com, to deliver his latest health update. He mentioned nothing of an impending surgery in a public appearance just two days ago - we repeat, two days ago! - when he took a couple of swings at a dog-and-pony public-relations show to announce a new course he will be building in Branson, Mo.

When asked about his health that day, he cut his answer short.

"The back is progressing," Woods said in Missouri. "I have good days and bad days. I've had three back operations and that's just kind of the nature of the business unfortunately. That's all I can say."

All he can say? The back was "progressing?" Toward what? Two days later, he was having yet another surgery. And getting more updates from him in the coming months is about as probable as bowling three games, kayaking and then heading to a concert with the Pope.

The story posted on Woods' site Thursday afternoon explains that due to previous herniations and surgeries, Woods' bottom lower-back disc narrowed severely, which in turn caused sciatica and severe pain in his back and leg. When therapy failed to alleviate the issue, he opted for another surgery.

So there you have it. Tiger Woods is back behind the curtain, resting comfortably after one more surgery, and getting ready for another rehab. At some point, the setbacks will be so many that any fire he harbors to return to a high level of competition will be completely doused.

This writer always has kept a candle lit that Woods will be back to win again - somewhere, at some point - for one reason: He is a tough, stubborn SOB. He lives to compete. And it tears him up to hear all the talking heads and read all the words that he in all likelihood could be done as a player.

But the stark reality is this: Woods knows that every day he is not competing on the PGA Tour is one more milepost farther away. And now he sits six more months away from just starting up again. It's a brutal cycle. These kids today taking his place at the big events are good, very good, and they're fearless, mostly because they learned from the best.

But time waits for no one, and will make no exception for a 41-year-old whose star continues to fade to a point where it is barely visible in golf's sky. If this indeed is it, it was one heck of a run.

PHOTOS: TIGER THROUGH THE YEARS

Tiger Woods of the United States hits a tee shot on the third hole during round one of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on December 1, 2016 in Nassau, Bahamas. Tiger Woods through the years


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