Tiger Woods’ 5th Back Surgery? What I Wrote Less Than 2 Years Ago

I wrote something about Tiger Woods & his fusion back surgery when he returned to the PGA Tour in February of 2018.

Aside from being alarmed (from an analysis point of view) that he was swinging in the 120s mph club speed at the time, I pointed out in the linked posting that he hadn’t done anything to fix the problem causing all of that back damage to begin with – his restricted-hip back swing & violent change of direction.

So, what everyone knows by now, he’s had a 5th back surgery:

From GolfDigest.com:

Tiger Woods’ 2021 season is on hold after he announced that he underwent a microdiscectomy procedure on his back to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching a nerve.

… The operation was brought on by discomfort Woods felt following the PNC Championship in December. Doctors characterized the surgery as a success and expect a full recovery, per Woods’ release, and sources close to Tiger say the hope is he can return to play in time for the Masters, which begins April 8.

It’s the fifth operation Woods, 45, has had on his back and the first since a spinal-fusion surgery in April 2017. He previously had the microdiscectomy surgery three times in 2014-15. 

So, back in February of 2018, I wrote:

Tiger’s hip turn and left knee stop halfway through the back swing, and then that violent change of direction…

If you have the stomach, I took another angle on a driver and began the gif. where the hips stop turning.  For good measure, watch the middle back at the top and in the change of direction starting back down.

If you think that back is twisted at the top, wait til the hips start back:

Nothing new there, as I’ve been talking about the harms & evils of swinging in this manner for over a decade now.

What I said about Woods’ new back however has come true:

Forgive me for saying that I don’t believe the spine is meant to sustain that type of twisting force.

As I said in a much earlier posting about the spine fusion TW underwent – if you fuse the spot that you injured twisting your back and then subjecting it to violent changes of direction and you continue to swing that way, you’re just transferring the twisting forces to another part of the un-fused spine

And how long that above is going to last is anyone’s guess, but my back hurts just looking at that.

Well, if you had guessed less than two seasons, you’d be right on the money – considering it has been two calendar years, several Tour events between then and now were postponed or cancelled outright, making it, yup, less than two full seasons.

I’m surprised he lasted this long, because he’s now in his mid-40s and I think he only did last this long because he dialed back his swing speed in 2019 as I noted at the time:

Ball Speed 2018

As you can see above, TW was in the top 20 in ball speed average last season, averaging 178.23 mph with a high of 182.32 and a low of 170.88, which are pretty solid numbers for a golfer at any age.

This season however, going into the Masters stretch, TW is 95thclose to 10 mph slower in ball speed and in Jordan Speithterritory:

Ball Speed Average 2019

He’s actually averaging lower in speed average this season than his lowest recorded speed from last season and – even more noticeable – his top speed this year is nearly 10 mph slower than last year’s top number.

Now, he’s had a WD with a neck issue which he said was bothering him for a few weeks, so that could explain the drop-off, but I had noticed this ball speed decline nearly from his first event at the Hero World Challenge.

He’s recorded nearly half (19 to 42) of the drives that determined his average last year, so the 5% decline can’t really be put down to rust, since he was recording 180+ numbers right from the start of his ’17-’18 campaign.

Certain things are as sure as death & taxes, WAX Nation – one of them being, you aren’t going to swing very long in the Modern Golf Swing style before running into physical issues even in your prime.

Another is that it’s a really bad idea to swing in this fashion after having undergone 4 previous surgeries due to the way you were swinging.

The silver lining is that he was there long enough to scoop up his 5th Masters win when it seemed no one else wanted to win that Green Jacket in 2019.

Note: I felt the need to follow up my previous postings about this issue when the news broke. 

I might find some other issues on which I feel the urge to opine, however…

I will, when I re-launch the site in the coming months, probably not be commenting on individual golfers & their swings, nor commenting on tournaments.

It’ll be strictly a swing mechanics blog without my preaching on what XYZ player is doing well, badly or flat out wrong.  After over ten years pointing all of that out, I’m done with it.