AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods began his 22nd Masters on Thursday morning just two years after believing he was done with competitive golf.
Although Woods has acknowledged previously that he was in bad shape physically because of back issues when he attended the 2017 Champions Dinner at Augusta National, he dropped a couple of previously undisclosed tidbits when accepting an award Wednesday from the Golf Writers Association of America.
He said he attended that 2017 dinner with past Masters champions needing a nerve blocker to deal with the pain, and that he left immediately afterward to visit a specialist in London, leading a few weeks later to the spinal fusion surgery that eventually allowed him to resume his career.
"I was done at that particular time," Woods said when accepting the Ben Hogan Award, given annually to a person who continues to be active in golf despite a "physical handicap or serious illness." Woods is now ranked 12th in the world.
"In order to actually come to the dinner, I had to get a nerve block just to be able to walk and come to the dinner. It meant so much to me to be part of the Masters and come to the Champions Diner. I didn't want to miss it. It was tough and uncomfortable. I ended up going to England that night, saw a specialist there, [and] they recommended unfortunately for me the only way to get rid of the pain I was living in was to have the spinal fusion surgery. So I decided to go to Dr. Richard Guyer in Texas and had the surgery."
The surgery took place roughly two weeks later on April 19, 2017, at the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute. Woods was not allowed to swing a club for six months.
"It was not a fun time," Woods said. "Tough couple of years there. But I was able to start to walk again. I was able to participate in life. I was able to be around my kids again, be at their games and their practices. Got to take them to school again. These were all things I couldn't do for a very long time. Golf was not in my future or even in my distant future. Playing the game again, I couldn't even do that with my son Charlie. I couldn't do that in my backyard. After the surgery, I started to feel a lot better."
Woods said that when Guyer gave him permission to finally hit driver shots six months after his spine had been fused, the first ones carried barely 90 yards. "I was a little bit apprehensive," he said.
His tee shot at the first hole of the Masters on Thursday went 317 yards into the fairway.