Tiger Woods had already bowed out of this week’s Genesis Open, the result of suffering back spasms and discomfort that forced him out of the Dubai Desert Classic after one round. However, with his tournament management company running the old L.A. Open and his foundation benefiting from the event’s proceeds, Woods was effectively host and intended to at least hold a Tuesday news conference — which likely would devolve into a discussion about his back and playing future.
That Tuesday press conference was canned and rescheduled for Wednesday, as Woods could come into town and appear at some other foundation-related functions, too. Then at 11 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday — Valentine’s Day, no less — tournament officials put out a statement.
After receiving daily treatment the last several days on his on-going back spasms, Tiger Woods has again been advised by doctors to limit all activities and will not hold a press conference Wednesday. It will not be rescheduled.
In other words, Woods couldn’t make the trek from his Florida home to Los Angeles to sit in a chair most of the way so that he could sit in a chair for another 20 minutes to take questions about being able to sit in a chair, or do pretty much anything else.
Once you get past the shock and awe of a late-night news dump on V-Day, you start to wonder if there’s more to Woods’ back spasms than were indicated in Dubai. Of course, there’s no way to know one way or another. And if you ask someone who has back trouble — particularly, occasional back spasms — they’ll tell you that when the pain strikes, it comes without warning and is typically debilitating. When it relents is unclear and how long that relief lasts is equally a mystery.
This is reality for Woods, whose back has been operated on three times since March 2014. He’s withdrawn four times from 21 worldwide starts since then with the same stated injury each time: lower back spasms. This isn’t new. It’s been going on for a while, and Woods has pursued surgical remedies in the hopes of coming up with a long-term fix for what will be a long-term problem. Woods says these spasms are unrelated to the nerve damage he suffered, but the body, particularly the back, is a system. It’s connected. That means a surgical procedure on one part of the back can and likely will have ramifications elsewhere.
And, here’s the thing about back problems: They rarely, truly improve. Back problems lead to more back problems unless the patient makes lifestyle changes and scales back on doing the things that caused the issues in the first place. For Woods, that’s golf. However, Woods kicked off 2017 with an ambitious schedule in hopes of getting enough tournament starts to knock off the ring rust and be ready for a run at a fifth Masters title. The heart of a champion, yes, but not the body.
At this point, it would seem there’s a big gap between doctors nixing the idea of Woods flying to partake in a probing news conference and Woods resuming his training regimen in preparation for Augusta National in April. Then again, the spasms could go away tomorrow. Woods has to prepare both extreme possibilities: that his back won’t let him compete, at least regularly, ever again, and that he could make a miraculous recovery.
This dog-and-pony show cannot continue, and it would seem Woods isn’t angling to subject himself, his reputation and his fans to this kind of agonizing decline in form and function. However, Woods won’t know what his body won’t let him do unless he tries. He got on the horse again, and he got thrown off. How many times can the bronco buck off Woods until he decides not the ride again?