Tiger Woods' return to golf still uncertain

ByBob Harig ESPN logo
Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tiger Woods' name was not on the commitment list for his hometown Honda Classic next week, a development of no surprise to anyone who has followed what is turning out to be a lengthy recovery from October back surgery.

But when Woods is able to return to competitive golf -- or if he is even able to practice yet -- remains a mystery.

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said Friday that he had no update to offer on Woods' recovery and rehabilitation schedule, much less any potential tournament starts. He referred to a similar conversation when asked the same question a few weeks ago.

There has been no news on Woods' situation since early December at the Hero World Challenge, where Woods held a news conference as tournament host.

"Three is no timetable for this and that's been the hardest mindset adjustment is that I don't know," Woods said on Dec. 1. "So where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don't know, so that's been hard."

Woods had three back surgeries in the same area to alleviate a disk issue in the span of 19 months, the last two occurring six weeks apart in September and October. When Woods first had surgery in March 2014, he returned to competitive golf in less than three months, although he played just five times the rest of the year.

In 2015, Woods had his worst year as a pro, making just 10 starts and missing cuts in three consecutive major championships. But he had his best performance of the year at the Wyndham Championship, where he was the 36-hole leader and tied for 10th. That was his last competitive golf, now nearly six months ago.

During an interview with ESPN.com two weeks ago, Woods' caddie, Joe LaCava, expressed optimism that the 14-time major champion who turned 40 in December would return when he is able. The two visited on a couple of occasions in December, and LaCava has declined other offers to caddie.

"I still have faith he's going to continue to do well and win," said LaCava, who has caddied for Woods since 2011 -- and for nine of his worldwide victories. "My thought is he will overcome the injury or whatever you want to call it. He might not be able to play as often as he would like. Once he's healed from this, he'll come back and play again and play well. My outlook is basically the same as when I started with him. He's Tiger Woods."

Woods was named a vice captain for the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team last fall, and Steinberg said he is trying to work around scheduling issues that would allow him to attend a dinner outing of potential team members that captain Davis Love III has scheduled for next week during the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.