Tiger Woods teased golf fans on Thursday when he posted on Twitter a short video of him practicing his chipping, but gave no information on when he might return to the PGA Tour. It appears through earlier comments that April 2018 and the Masters is the goal.
Under the 28-second slow motion video, he wrote, “Dr. gave me the ok to start pitching.” Woods has been recovering from his fourth back surgery, which he had in April.
It is part of a tumultuous year for the former number one golfer, who hasn’t played in a tournament since he withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms in February. Since then, he has endured off-the-course incidents, too, that have taken attention away from his golf, including a DUI arrest and the hacking of his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn’s phone leading to nude photos of the two appearing online.
Betting on Tiger
The 14-time major championship winner had comeback hopes before, returning from his third back surgery in December for a tournament he hosts, The Hero World Challenge, where he led the field in birdies. Sportsbooks were getting excited that the star golfer might be returning form.
For his first PGA Tour event of 2017, Woods entered the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January. It was an event he had won seven times before, and site of his last major championship victory, the 2008 US Open.
Oddsmakers had him at 22-1 to win the event, but he shot 76 and 72 on the first two days and missed the cut. He then went to Dubai, but had to withdraw after shooting a first-round 77, citing continued back pain.
Woods hinted at trying to rehab his back for an appearance at the Masters in April of this year. But casinos were not convinced, and his odds fluctuated wildly. He opened at 60-1 and then dropped to 20-1 in December, but his poor performances knocked him back to 40-1, and then ultimately to 100-1. He ended up not playing and two weeks later decided on the surgery.
Since his first surgery in 2014, Woods has played in just 18 worldwide events, with seven missed cuts, three withdrawals and just one top-10 finish.
According to the news section of his website, TigerWoods.com, the surgery was needed because a bottom lower-back disk had severely narrowed due to previous herniation and surgeries. Rehab, rest and medications weren’t solving the problem, so he opted for what doctors call an anterior lumbar interbody fusion.
“The surgery went well, and I’m optimistic this will relieve my back spasms and pain,” Woods posted. “When healed, I look forward to getting back to a normal life, playing with my kids, competing in professional golf and living without the pain I have been battling so long.”
In May, Woods was arrested near his home in Jupiter, Florida, for driving under the influence. A dashcam video showed the 41-year-old slurring responses to police questions.
Woods explained that he was not drunk, but had mixed pain and sleep medications. A toxicology report listed pain medications Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien, and THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in his system. He avoided a conviction on the DUI charges, but accepted a 12-month probation that required attendance at a DUI education class. In June, he checked himself into a treatment facility for help dealing with what some feared could become an addiction to prescription painkillers.
In August, a hacker supposedly had gotten into girlfriend Vonn’s cell phone and leaked nude pictures of the golfer and the Olympic skier. Woods has threatened to sue the website that posted the pictures but they remain available online.
For now, it’s simply further incentive for his recovery, as the more Woods accomplishes on the links, the more difficult it becomes to find his tawdrier images of 2017 on the internet.