AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods began his 22nd Masters on Thursday morning just two years after believing he was done with competitive golf.
Although Woods has acknowledged previously that he was in bad shape physically due to back issues when he attended the 2017 Champions Dinner at Augusta National, he dropped a couple of new tidbits not previously disclosed when accepting an award Wednesday from the Golf Writers Association of America.
He attended that dinner with past Masters champions needing a nerve blocker to deal with the pain; and that he left immediately afterward to visit a specialist in London, leading a few weeks later to the spinal fusion surgery that eventually allowed him to resume his career.
“I was done at that particular time,” Woods said when accepting the Ben Hogan award, given annually to a person in golf who continues to be active in golf despite “a physical handicap or serious illness.” Woods is now ranked 12th in the world.
“In order to actually come to the dinner, I had to get a nerve block just to be able to walk and come to the dinner. It meant so much to me to be part of the Masters and come to the Champions Diner. I didn’t want to miss it. It was tough and uncomfortable. I ended up going to England that night, saw a specialist there, they recommended unfortunately for me the only way to get rid of the pain I was living in was to have the spinal fusion surgery. So I decided to go to Dr. Richard Guyer in Texas and had the surgery.”
The surgery took place roughly two weeks later on April 19, 2017 at the Center of Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute. He was not allowed to swing a club for six months.
“It was not a fun time,” Woods said. “Tough couple of years there. But I was able to start to walk again. I was able to participate in life. I was able to be around my kids again, be at their games and their practices. Got to take them to school again. These were all things I couldn’t do for a very long time. Golf was not in my future or even in my distant future. Playing the game again, I couldn’t even do that with my son Charlie. I couldn’t do that in my back yard. After the surgery I started to feel a lot better.”
Woods said when Guyer gave him permission to finally hit driver shots after his spin had been fused six months later, the first ones he hit carried barely 90 yards. “I was a little bit apprehensive,” Woods said.
His tee shot at the first hole on Thursday went 317 yards into the fairway.