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Tiger Woods out of Masters after back surgery

Updated: 
April 2, 2014 - 12:05am

Tiger Woods’ injury history

c December 1994 — Surgery on left knee to remove two benign tumors and scar tissue.

c Dec. 13, 2002 — Surgery on left knee to remove fluid inside and outside the ACL and remove benign cysts from his left knee. Misses the season opener in 2003.

c August 2007 — Ruptures the ACL in his left knee while running on a golf course after the British Open, but is able to keep playing. Wins five of the last six tournaments he plays, including the PGA Championship for his 13th major.

c April 15, 2008 — Two days after the Masters, has arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage.

c May 2008 — Advised weeks before the U.S. Open that he has two stress fractures of the left tibia and should rest for six weeks, the first three weeks on crutches.

c June 24, 2008 — Eight days after winning the U.S. Open, has surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee by using a tendon from his right thigh. Additional cartilage damage is repaired. Misses the rest of the season and does not return until the Match Play Championship at the end of February 2009.

c December 2008 — Injured his Achilles tendon in his right leg as he was running while preparing to return to golf.

c Nov. 27, 2009 — Hospitalized overnight with a sore neck and a cut lip that required five stitches when the SUV he was driving ran over a fire hydrant and into a tree.

c May 9, 2010 — Withdrew from the final round of The Players Championship, citing a bulging disk. He later said it was a neck issue that caused tingling in his right side, and that it first became a problem as he began practicing harder for his return to the Masters a month earlier.

c April 10, 2011 — Injures his left Achilles tendon hitting from an awkward stance below Eisenhower’s Tree on the 17th at Augusta National. Withdraws from the Wells Fargo Championship.

c May 12, 2011 — Withdraws from The Players Championship after a 42 on the front nine. Diagnosed with an MCL sprain in his left knee and in his left Achilles tendon. He misses the next two months, including two majors, returning at the Bridgestone Invitational.

c March 11, 2012 — Feels tightness in his left Achilles tendon and withdraws after 11 holes of the final round in the Cadillac Championship at Doral. He wins in his next start at Bay Hill, his first PGA Tour victory since the scandal in his personal life.

c Aug. 24, 2012 — Moves stiffly during the second round of The Barclays and later says he felt pain in his lower back, which he attributed to a soft mattress in his hotel room.

c June 13, 2013 — Is seen shaking his left arm during the opening round of the U.S. Open. He later says it’s a left elbow strain that he injured while winning The Players Championship a month earlier. He misses two tournaments and returns at the British Open.

c Aug. 11, 2013 — Said he felt tightness in his back during the final round of the PGA Championship.

c Aug. 21, 2013 — Two weeks after the PGA Championship, he only chips and putts on the back nine of the pro-am at The Barclays, complaining of a stiff neck and back that he attributed to a soft bed in the hotel. By Sunday at The Barclays, he dropped to his knees after one shot because of back spasms.

c March 2, 2014 — Withdraws after 13 holes of the final round at The Honda Classic because of lower back pain and spasms, describing it as similar to what he felt at The Barclays.

c March 9, 2014 — Plays the final 12 holes with pain in his lower back, saying it began to flare up after hitting out of the bunker from an awkward lie in the Cadillac Championship at Doral. He shoots 78, the highest score of his career in a final round.

c March 19, 2014 — Withdraws from the Arnold Palmer Invitational because of the persistent pain in his back. He was the two-time defending champion.

c March 31, 2014 — Has surgery in Utah for a pinched nerve.

c April 1, 2014 — Announced he will miss the Masters and not return to golf until the summer.

Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods is out of next week’s first major of the season after undergoing surgery on a disc in his back.

And he could be off the course for weeks or even months.

Woods’ website announced Tuesday that he had “undergone a successful microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve that has been hurting him for several months.”

The surgery was performed in Park City, Utah, by Dr. Charles Rich, a neurosurgeon.

Woods will require rest and rehabilitation for the next several weeks, putting in doubt whether he will defend his title May 8-11 at The Players Championship at TPC-Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra or be able to play in the U.S. Open, which is June 12-15 in Pinehurst, N.C.

“On average, elite athletes are back on the field in three to four months,” said Dr. Andrew Hecht, Chief of Spine Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “Of those, 90 percent can ultimately return to their previous level of competition.

“How long it will take for him to get back to No. 1 in the world, no one can answer,” Hecht added. “It could be a few months more.”

Woods has played in the Masters every year since first appearing as an amateur in 1995. He exploded onto the golf scene with his first major win there in 1997 and also won in 2001, ‘02 and ‘05. It is the only major he has never missed since his first.

Woods, 38, struggled with what was termed back spasms at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, withdrawing after playing 13 holes of his final round March 2. He then addressed the issue at a news conference before the WGC-Cadillac Championship three days later.

“It’s the nature of repetitive sport,” he said. “Some guys do it a thousand times a day, but it’s the same exact motion. So you have repetitive injuries and most of my injuries are that.

“So that’s … why we lift, why we work out, is to try to prevent a lot of these things and keep us healthy and keep us out here.

“As we get older — and I’ve learned it as I’ve aged — I don’t quite heal as fast as I used to. I just don’t bounce back like I used to. That’s just part of aging.”

Woods, who has remained No. 1 in the world despite his difficulties, was clearly in pain that week at Doral, saying afterward that he hoped that having two weeks prior to his next event would be sufficient time to be healthy again for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It wasn’t, and Woods withdrew from that event — where he was two-time defending champion — on March 18, two days before it began.

At that time he expressed hope he would be ready for the Masters. His agent, Mark Steinberg, told The Palm Beach Post on Monday that his Masters status would be clarified “very, very shortly.”

Earlier in the same interview, Steinberg made it clear that Woods plans to remain competitive for years to come.

“I don’t think Tiger is anywhere near interested in handing off the mantle,” Steinberg said. “He has every intention of being dominant the next several years.”

Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay, a former college teammate of Woods’ at Stanford who was forced to retire from the PGA Tour two years ago because o his own back issues, said on air that he had spoken to Woods about his situation.

“Back pain just kind of escalates, and the nerves get agitated, and as the spine is rotating, rep after rep and week after week, it eventually gets to the point where it begins to develop compensations in the swing.

“Getting rid of the pain and getting the back strong, which I am 100 percent confident he is going to be able to do, is of the utmost importance right now.”

A microdiscectomy is a procedure in which an incision from 1 to 1 1/2 inches long is made in the lower back and the problematic disc, which Heck described as a “shock-absorbing cushion” between the vertebrae is addressed.

“Think of the disc as a doughnut with jelly inside and a tough outside, and herniation is where the jelly comes out of the doughnut. When it comes out, it pushes on the nerve, which results in back, buttock or leg pain.”

He added, “Golf involves a lot of twisting and turning. The often overlooked part is golfers have a lot of back problems.”

Hecht added that patients typically attempt to address the issue via physical therapy before opting for surgery. Woods clearly became frustrated after trying that avenue for the past month.

“I’d like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters,” Woods wrote on his website. “It’s a week that’s very special to me. It also looks like I’ll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.”

Woods finally referenced Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus, whose records for PGA Tour wins (82) and majors (18) remain goals.

“It’s tough right now, but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future,” said Woods, who has 79 tour victories and 14 majors. “There are a couple (of) records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I’ve said many times, Sam and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine.”