Tiger Woods -- back up and running
NORTON, Mass. -- It's all about the back.
Golfers -- both professional and recreational -- know firsthand the pain of back problems, especially as they wind up to take a thrash at the ball. So it would be no different with the most famous golfer on the planet, whose swing can reach upwards of 117-118 mph.
When Tiger Woods showed up at the driving range at 6:33 a.m. ET on Thursday, just 17 minutes before his Deutsche Bank Championship pro-am tee time, the assembled fans were watching to see the condition of the world's No. 1 golfer. After 18 holes, Woods proclaimed he has a clean bill of health -- for now.
Watching everything to see even the slightest flinch, Woods gave away no sign of injury. Not after crushing a driver 346 yards on the 12th hole. Not after bending down to pick a ball out of the hole after making one of his four birdies at the par-5 seventh hole. Not after retrieving many a tee that was forced from its place in the TPC Boston turf made soft by a misty drizzle.
So the real question is, Woods' back was fine on Thursday, but just like a pro's golf game, how will it hold up under tournament conditions?
Only Woods knows how hard he truly swung it in the pro-am and he isn't sure how much the injury will hamper not just his swing, but also his practice time after each round.
"It's a day-to-day deal on how I feel, whether I'm going to practice or not after," Woods said. "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.
"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."
It's noteworthy that Woods hadn't swung a club for nearly four days and he's fortunate the Deutsche Bank Championship is a Friday start/Monday finish, giving him an extra day of rest. But what about taking a break this week, which in effect would have given him two weeks off since the PGA Tour playoffs don't resume until Thursday, Sept. 12, outside Chicago?
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The possible decision to skip the FedEx Cup playoffs' second event would have been highly unlikely since Woods' own foundation runs the tournament and he traditionally donates his paycheck to the charity. That could prove to be a hefty sum for a guy who's finished T-11 or better in seven of the eight times he's played here south of Boston, including a victory in 2006.
Granted, he did skip his own AT&T National tournament in Washington, D.C., after an injury earlier this year, but back problems can come and go quickly, so Woods looks like he's ready to roll.
When it comes to back woes, Woods could, of course, reach out to his current caddie Joe LaCava's old boss, Fred Couples, whose ailments are well documented. That experience could surely help Woods in the long run. In the years on Couples' bag, LaCava surely picked up a few tricks of the trade on how to make life easier on an aching back for a professional golfer.
So where does Woods go from here? He's 37, but the 14-time major champion knows all too well that injuries add up as the years catch up with you.
"It's part of playing sports, you know," Woods said. "We push it and we have little knick-knack 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.
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"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."
As for what Woods is meant to do, it appears he will be back in action Friday at 8:40 a.m. ET playing alongside Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott when that was in doubt just a few days ago. But is this injury a harbinger of things to come for Woods?
There's no disabled list on the PGA Tour, but if there was, Tiger Woods would simply be listed as day-to-day, not on the 60-day DL -- for now.
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