Tiger Woods injuries: Explaining Tiger’s recovery from February car accident

tiger woods bahamas

Tiger Woods is back this week to play at the PNC Championship in Orlando.

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Nine months ago, no one could have expected Tiger Woods to tee it up at all, let alone in public, at a tournament, on the Golf Channel. But that’s where we are this week as Woods competes in the PNC Championship alongside his son, Charlie, at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando. 

What can we expect from Woods this week, and the rest of the year? It all depends on his body. That’s been his truth for awhile, and will be his truth going forward — “It’s my reality and I’ve accepted it,” Woods told Golf Digest recently. Woods suffered open fractures to both the tibia and fibula in his lower right leg. Less serious but concurrent damage occurred with Woods’ ankle and soft tissue in his lower leg. And less than a year later, he’s clearly able to peg it in a reasonable way right now. 

When Woods hosted 20 of the best players in the world at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month, he clued us in a bit to where his body is at, and what his rehab process has been like. Woods was largely bedridden for three months following the surgeries to his lower body, but he did walk with crutches about two months after the accident, by his estimate. He also admitted that he probably walked without crutches a bit earlier than his doctors advised him to.

In the months that followed the accident, Woods said, he was gracious just to go outside and feel the sun on his face. “It’s hard to explain how difficult it has been just to be immobile for the three months, just lay there and I was just looking forward to getting outside.”

Woods’ recovery, in terms of golf, has meant chipping and putting in his backyard, and playing short-game competitions against Charlie. Positive as that may be, Woods noted that he is not able to grind through practice sessions like he used to, like during his comeback prior to this one. 

“I don’t foresee this leg ever being what it used to be, hence I’ll never have the back what it used to be, and clock’s ticking,” Woods told reporters. “I’m getting older, I’m not getting any younger. All that combined means that a full schedule and a full practice schedule and the recovery that it would take to do that, no, I don’t have any desire to do that.”

Despite the uphill battle he still has ahead of him, Woods did practice repeatedly during the week in the Bahamas. He spent multiple days during the course of the tournament hitting full swing shots — even drivers — on the end of the driving range. So, how would he guess his future looks competing with his body on the PGA Tour? Woods has decided to invoke the story of Ben Hogan, who survived an auto accident to return and win at the highest level of the game. 

“To ramp up for a few events a year as I alluded to yesterday as Mr. Hogan did, he did a pretty good job of it, and there’s no reason that I can’t do that and feel ready,” Woods said. “I may not be tournament sharp in the sense I haven’t played tournaments, but I think if you practice correctly and you do it correctly, that I’ve come off surgeries before, I’ve come off long layoffs and I’ve won or come close to winning before. So I know the recipe for it, I’ve just got to get to a point where I feel comfortable enough where I can do that again.”

For all the fans watching from afar, Tiger’s future was actually predicted a bit by Justin Thomas in November. “I don’t see him ever playing if he can’t play well,” Thomas said. As it turns out, he was pretty spot on when discussing his buddy’s future. Woods told reporters almost exactly the same thing:

“I’ve got to be good enough to do it, okay? So I’ve got to prove to myself in practice that I’m good enough. I’ll chip and putt any of these guys, but the golf courses are longer than just a chip-and-putt course.”

In other words, stay patient, folks. Woods comes back this week, not on a gigantic course, but not on a chip-and-putt course either. 

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.

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