Tiger Woods feeling stiff coming off back surgery, hopes to play in Masters

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Sam Farmer
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FILE - Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the final round.
Tiger Woods remains optimistic he'll be able to play at the Masters in April as he continues to recover from back surgery. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Tiger Woods, who hosted the Genesis Invitational but didn’t play in it, said he’s still feeling stiff as he recovers from his fifth back surgery but remains optimistic he can play in the Masters in seven weeks.

“God I hope so. I’ve got to get there first,” Woods said with a laugh Sunday in an interview with CBS’ Jim Nantz. “A lot of it is based on my surgeons and doctors and therapist and making sure I do it correctly. This is the only back I’ve got; I don’t have much more wiggle room left.”

Although Dustin Johnson won the unprecedented November Masters, after the tournament was postponed because of the pandemic, it was Woods who won at Augusta National in 2019, the last time the tournament took place in its traditional April spot.

Woods is recoveringfrom a microdiscectomy procedure to remove a pressurized disk fragment that was pinching his nerve.

“I’m feeling fine; a little bit stiff,” he told Nantz, saying he was “still in the gym, still doing mundane stuff that you have to do for rehab, the little things before I can start gravitating towards something a little more.”

He has made one equipment tweak, lengthening his putter and thereby taking some pressure off his back.

“Starts with that — I don't have to bend over as far,” he said. “I've gone to the same length as my sand wedge because I do a lot of putting drills, blading — hitting the equator with my sand wedge and I figured, well, if I do a lot with that, why not lengthen my putter to the same length? So I did and it helped.”

Tough act to follow

Max Homa’s father, John, is an actor and acting coach who was the on-set coach for ABC’s "General Hospital" for 18 years and has worked with Hollywood stars such as Brie Larson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Michelle Williams, Evan Rachel Wood, and Ricky Martin.

John Homa’s son, who collected his second PGA Tour victory Sunday, is squarely focused on golf.

“I don't think there's really any parallels between acting and golf other than me at times trying to act like I'm the best player in the world when that may not be the literal case,” Max Homa said. “Other than that, I feel it was just being raised by somebody who can teach and can understand a child's or a kid, young adult's growth into something that they want to be great at.”

Finau close but no cigar

Consolation prize, thy name is Tony Finau.

In finishing second to Homa, Finau collected his 21st top-five finish on tour since the start of the 2016-17 season. That’s tied for sixth most among all players and the most among those without a victory during that span (Tommy Fleetwood is second with 11).

“Yeah, it's bittersweet to be in this position again,” Finau conceded. “But I never get tired of playing good golf and that's what I tell myself every week. It's like sports is about winning; I've said that many times. I grew up trying to win every tournament I play; every tournament I play, nothing's changed. But I know at the end of the day you're going to lose a lot more times than you're going to win on the PGA Tour.

“Unfortunately for me that's come really close in the last few years. But I always challenge myself to play good golf and that's all I try to do. I'm not a quitter. I'm not someone that's going to fade away into the sunset because I can't win in these situations.”

Etc.

Sam Burns was alone atop the leaderboard after each of the first three rounds before finishing the tournament third, his best showing at a tour event. The last player to hold the solo lead in each of the first three rounds but fail to win was Si Woo Kim at the 2019 Valero Texas Open. ... In tying for 15th, Xander Schauffele finished in the top 25 for his 16th consecutive tour event. He’s the third player to achieve that, joining Woods (four times) and Rory McIlroy.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.