Tiger Woods back in action
By Stephanie Wei under FedEx Cup
Back in action

Tiger’s Back

Yes, pun intended. Tiger Woods felt well enough to play all 18 holes in the pro-am on Thursday at the Deustche Bank Championship — which was also the first time he had touched a club since last Sunday — unlike last Wednesday when he chipped and putted for the second nine at The Barclays, which was actually the initial plan this time, too. 

“The back has been‑‑ it’s a lot better than obviously on Sunday,” said Woods, who tweaked his neck and back after sleeping in a soft hotel bed last week (man, some brand is lucky he’s not naming names!). “It was nice to have that extra day of rest, having the tournament start on Friday certainly helps.  And I’ve gotten treatment every day, two to three times a day.  And it feels good.

“Today was nice…it was nice to go out today and feel comfortable and be able to hit shots.”

Since the final round of The Barclays, Woods has received treatment at least once a day and often two or three times– which includes the standard regimen of ice, stem, soft tissue massage, not to mention rest. The latter is something competitors don’t like a whole lot.

“Rest is something I’m not real good at, but I was forced to do it,” said Tiger in his press conference following the round with NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg. As far as receiving that type of treatment, yeah, I’m going to have to do it.  I don’t want to have to do it.  So hopefully my back will stay where it’s at right now and, if not, improve so I can start doing the other little exercises, start strengthening it and getting back to where it needs to be.”

As you know, Tiger has a long history of injuries. His left knee. His Achilles. His neck. His elbow. His back. And those are the only the ones we know about. As he ages (he’s 38 in December), it’s not getting any easier to recover from them and it’s something he’s learned to accept and manage (which sucks but it can always be worse).

“Well, it’s part of playing sports, you know,” he said. “We push it and we have little knickknack injuries that happen.  That’s part of playing sports.  And I’ve had plenty of surgeries over the course of my career, starting in ’94, when I was in college.  So it’s the nature of what we do as an athlete.  I try to do a lot of preventative things, but the nature of it is that we are subjecting our bodies to things that probably it wasn’t meant to do.”

Yeah, golf obviously isn’t an “impact” sport, but in a way it is since you create impact with the club, ball and ground, which does indirectly affect your arms, etc., and then everything connects to your core. The back is in an integral part of the golf swing and you’re twisting and turning it ways that are anything but natural.

Woods started feeling better yesterday (Thursday) and he even got an extra day of rest because of the traditional Friday start at the Deutsche Bank Championship in lieu of Labor Day weekend.

I’m the last person that wants to imply that his physical limitations are over-exaggerated or all in his head — though I do think he’s a bit of a drama queen — but I also know that the mental hurdles can be just as impairing as the physical. You might protect your swing to avoid causing pain to your back and compensate with another part of your body and then develop bad habits, etc. It’s all about adjusting, but Woods, who isn’t known to ever admit mental feebleness, insists that’s not an issue.

“As far as any mental hurdle, no,” he said when asked if he faced any. “I felt great this morning.  The treatment was good and I felt ready to go.  And I did full activation and went out there today and warmed up, had no issues, and then went out and played.  As I said, it was a pleasant surprise to play all 18.”

Naturally, his nagging back injury is affecting his practice schedule.

“It’s a day‑to‑day deal on how I feel, whether I’m going to practice or not after, whether or not I’m going to get a little bit tight now, go eat, if I get a little bit tight, then I probably won’t hit balls,” he said. “But I’d like to putt a little bit, get a feel for the speed of the greens.  But as far as hitting balls it’s going to be day‑to‑day.  This was, as I said, the first day I hit balls or swung a club since Sunday.  And it was a pleasant surprise to go out there and play without any discomfort today.”

The putting stance isn’t exactly easy on the back, either, but it causes less impact/stress on the body.

Are these injuries chronic? We’ve seen many careers cut short because of debilitating back problems. (Oh, now we’re really getting to my expertise. Now this is something I can talk extensively about, not that I’m equating my issues with Tiger’s, but I can relate in the way that I do empathize and I know how much it sucks and it’s even worse talking about it to people who have no concept of chronic pain/injuries.)

“The nature of it is‑‑ it could be fixed through the treatments that I just‑‑ the protocols I just gave you,” he said. “If that’s the case, that’s fantastic, and I’ve just got to adhere to it and do it.  And obviously it’s going to be a long stretch through here and through The Presidents Cup, I’m playing a lot of golf.  And that’s why it’s great having the physios that I have and have been working on my body for a number about of years.  And they know my body.”

In other words, he manages the pain and the restrictions it puts on his practice and competition.

Tiger, who is leading in FedExCup points, tees off at 8:40am Friday morning with nos. 2 and 3 on the list, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson — two of his favorite fellow competitors!

In related news, Tiger’s former caddie and Scott’s current one, Stevie Williams, says he’s cleared the air with Woods *and* that “prick” Phil. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?!

Meanwhile, Tiger’s girlfriend Lindsey Vonn is on a media tour and she told USA Today that they’re really competitive about everything, including “the hand slapping game.” Yes, she’s referring to the one you played in the schoolyard when you were 9. That’s cute. (And I’m not being entirely facetious.)

Vonn also revealed there’s a decent chance Tiger will accompany her to the Winter Olympic Games in Russia next February — depending on his schedule.

“We’re going to see how his schedule goes, but he’s hoping to come,” she told the NY Post. “He’s kind of a fish out of water in the cold weather. It’s going to be really cute!”

Again, cute.

On that note, ironically, my back spasms have flared up, so I need to go get treatment.

(AP Photo/Steve Milne)