News & Opinion

Tiger Woods is back, but what’s with his back?

The Genesis Invitational
After Tiger Woods makes an early exit from the Genesis Invitational and skips this week’s WGC Mexico event, talk once again turns toward his health and his future.

No need for concern yet, John Hawkins contends, especially with warmer weather in Florida just around the corner for Woods and the PGA Tour, but Mike Purkey isn’t so sure

Hawk & Purk Podcast Hero Article

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

On a 1-to-5 scale (least to most), how much has Tiger Woods’ recent performance been affected by lingering back issues?

Hawk’s take: It’s always guesswork when it comes to injuries, especially those involving Woods, who is rarely forthright on matters regarding his health. He did speak in generalities, however, about his back after a poor second round at Riviera last Friday. The takeaway? This is the new normal. It’s easy to see how the cool Los Angeles weather might have had a hand in Woods playing the final 54 holes in 13 over, so it’s best to wait and see how he looks once the Florida Swing begins next week.

Temperatures are likely to climb into the 80s. Woods always has been a hot-weather kind of guy, which is why I won’t go higher than 1.5 on the effect meter for now. His golf swing looked terrific in the early stages at Riviera. If he can get loose in the Sunshine State and start putting a bit more like he once did, Woods can pass Sam Snead on the PGA Tour all-time victory list with one sizzling weekend.

Of course, he also could fall to his knees after one awkward move and miss the next six months. When you’re 44 years old and a veteran of spinal-fusion surgery, reality can come at you without an ounce of warning or pretense. Woods knows what’s best for his body, but even if he paces himself properly, there are no guarantees.

Purk’s take: Anyone who ever has suffered a bad back knows that how you feel when you get up in the morning is little more than a roll of the dice. Even if you prepare diligently in the gym every day, doing everything your trainer tells you, there are still no guarantees from day to day, week to week.

Tiger Woods knows all too well. Last week at Riviera, it was clear that he wasn’t anywhere near 100 percent physically. On a scale of 1-5, it looked to be a 4.5 that his poor play was affected by back issues, especially over the weekend.

He appeared to walk gingerly and more than once, he looked like he came out of iron shots, just like someone with a tender back would do. Even his poor putting likely could have been caused by back pain. When he’s healthy, Woods stays in his posture better than perhaps anyone. A little flinch, and impact can be a problem, even on a putt.

He pulled out of this week’s WGC Mexico, and it’s clear now that he won’t play two weeks in a row going forward. But when his back acts up, even one in a row can be a problem.

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