Tiger Woods, 12 weeks after back surgery, will return to competitive golf next week at the PGA Tour event outside Washington, D.C.
Woods announced the decision Friday afternoon via his Facebook account, acknowledging that he will be “a bit rusty” for the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club.
“After a lot of therapy I have recovered well and will be supporting my foundation next week at the Quicken Loans National,” Woods said in the Facebook post. “I’ve just started to hit full shots but it’s time to take the next step. I will be a bit rusty but I want to play myself back into competitive shape. Excited for the challenge ahead.”
Woods, 38, had a procedure called a microdiscectomy on March 31 to alleviate a pinched nerve in his back. He had played just four times in 2014, with lackluster results. Woods had back problems late last year, but they first became apparent again on March 2 during the final round of the Honda Classic. He withdrew following 13 holes.
A week later, Woods returned for the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where he fired a 66 during the third round to get into contention. But the back issues got worse. Woods shot 78 the next day and failed to make a birdie. He tied for 25th and hasn’t played since.
The tournament next week, in its eighth year, benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and has a new title sponsor. That likely has something to do with Woods’ decision to play.
The event also will give Woods the opportunity to shake off some rust as he prepares for the Open Championship next month at Royal Liverpool in England, where he won the last of his three Claret Jugs in 2006.
Woods missed the Masters for the first time in his professional career as well as last week’s U.S. Open. He has missed six major championships over the past six years.
At a media day for the Quicken Loans event last month, Woods said he had yet to begin hitting full shots and admitted the discomfort associated with his back problems prior to surgery had him questioning his future.
“The time right before the surgery, I really couldn’t do much,” Woods said on May 19. “Getting out of bed was a task, and forget about playing golf at the highest level. I couldn’t get out of bed. So yeah, I was certainly doubtful at that point.
“What was I going to feel like? Am I going to be pain free? Am I actually going to be able to do this again where I can get out of bed and go out there and play with my kids and play golf?
“All those things are up in the air. But after I had the procedure, it was immediate relief, and it’s just a matter of getting through that pain part. It wasn’t the shocking pain or debilitating pain, it was just pain from the surgery, from the incision, but it wasn’t like it was right before.”
The last of Woods’ 79 victories came in August at the Bridgestone Invitational. The following week he experienced back pain at the PGA Championship and again two weeks later at the Barclays.
Woods’ offseason was spent trying to manage the back problems and prepare for 2014, all of which went awry just three tournaments into the season.
Now, if he remains healthy, he brings back into play two major championships as well as qualifying for the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs. He would also have a chance to show U.S. captain Tom Watson that he is fit to play the Ryder Cup in September.