Woods Injury Won't Affect Future Performance

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By Vincent Paul Hidalgo | June 12, 2014 12:40 PM EST

The green shall miss Tiger Woods for a minimum of three months but it should be enough for him to recuperate and be competitive again.

REUTERS/Andrew Weber-USA TODAY
Tiger Woods tees off during the final round of the WGC - Cadillac Championship golf tournament in Miami

The most popular golfer in the world, Woods is set to miss his second major championship for 2014 after undergoing back surgery late March. He already missed the Masters and he is also a no-go for the U.S. Which begins Thursday in Pinehurst, North Carolina. He has missed six of the past 24 major tournaments due to an assortment of injuries.

While still the major draw of the sport, Tiger's absence has triggered previous concerns from if he still has the magic to win major tournaments to if he can barely play.

Yahoo! Sports reports that several doctors' opinions appeased fans of the golfer of his chances of recovery and back to top form. Instrumental to such progress is whether the microdisectomy addressed the source of his injury or is simply a stop gap solution for a chronic problem.

"If the problem was just the nerve root impingement, the microdiscectomy could solve that problem," says Dr. David Geier, a Charleston, S.C., orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist. "If someone already has degenerative conditions in their lower back, there could be problems down the road."

Woods is famously hard to be reached by media for comments yet he gave one glimmer of hope from a blog entry late in May stating, "One reassuring thing from my medical exam is I have zero arthritic changes whatsoever. I've kept myself in very good shape over the years, and it has paid off."

The recovery from that type of surgery takes a couple of steps. The experts estimate that a bare minimum of three months is needed to consider any competition for Woods. This also means that A Tiger Woods swinging his golf clubs at the British Open in July is a long shot at best.

"In general, with any athlete surgery, you begin with physical therapy of the muscles around the spine," says Dr. Andrew Hecht, a New York City spinal surgeon. "Once the athlete is comfortable with that, then they move on to sport-specific activities. Each athlete has a target point, a sweet spot, when they know when they're ready."

While a return to the green is the major talking point, some analysts are already question a bigger issue, Tiger's return to form. The doctors int his area gave some positive scenarios wherein no long lasting effects of the injury would diminish Tiger Wood's performance at the golf course.

"The twisting and rotation of the torso would be in high demand for a golfer of his level," Geier said. "I don't think the likelihood of a repeat problem is very high. There could be some discomfort and stiffness that could set him back, but it's unlikely that would be permanent."

"It's called 'micro'-discectomy, but it's still back surgery, and that's not nothing," says Dr. Derek Ochiai, an Arlington, Va., orthopedic surgeon. "From a strictly orthopedic standpoint, he should be healed from the actual surgery, and now he should be focused on the muscles around his back. The only real risk is if he pushes too quickly and those back muscles aren't ready."

Nevertheless, Tiger's absence has already been felt by the major tournaments he missed in terms of ticket sales and viewership.

The U.S. Open alone has reduced secondary ticket prices compared to last year. Philly.com reports that a four-day gallery pass went for an average of $1,400 in 2013. This year, the average pass on StubHub is going for about $428, with the most expensive tickets being offered for less than half of the 2013 average.

Last year's event registered strong ratings, becoming the most watched U.S. Open in six years. Without Woods, it's almost a certainty that NBC will see a dramatic decrease in viewership.

"I don't ever remember an athlete, whether it's in a team sport or individual sport, I guess with the exception of Michael Jordan, who can so dramatically affect the amount of people watching a tournament," CBS Sports president Sean McManus said in 2000. "It's true at the regular PGA Tour events and it's certainly true at the major events, also."

Fast forward to 14 years later, the same statement still holds up with Woods. From 2007 until 2010, the 15 most watched tournaments on television were tournaments which were participated in by the legendary golfer. The time table for when casual fans and even non-fans of the sport can follow him will only depend on his back and cautious optimism.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Weber-USA TODAY / )
Tiger Woods tees off during the final round of the WGC - Cadillac Championship golf tournament in Miami
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