Tiger Woods 'stiff' 5 weeks after surgery, targets healthy 2016 return

Tiger Woods has yet to begin rehabilitation from Sept. 16 back surgery that will sideline him for the rest of this year and said Tuesday that he expects a "long and tedious process'' before he returns to golf sometime in 2016.

Woods said he played in pain for a good part of 2015, his worst year as a pro and one that saw him miss the cut in the last three major championships while failing to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Woods was in Mexico City, where he took part in a news conference as part of the Bridgestone America's Golf Cup, an event he was scheduled to play in with Matt Kuchar prior to his latest surgery setback.

He had microdiscectomy surgery for a second time to alleviate an impingement in a disk in his lower back. Woods had the same surgery on March 31, 2014, and didn't play competitive golf for three months.

"I feel good, I'm just stiff; that's the way it is after surgery,'' Woods said at the news conference, which included Kuchar, who is still playing in the event. It is part of the PGA Tour's developmental tour in Latin America and begins Thursday. "I haven't been allowed to do much of anything.

"I'll start my rehab soon, but it's a long and tedious process. The last time, it took me a long time to come back. Some of the guys who have had it [microdiscectomy] done said it took them over a year to be pain free. I hope it doesn't take me that long to be pain free.''

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, declined to comment. On Sept. 18, Steinberg said Woods had gone to see Dr. Charles Rich, the surgeon who performed his back surgery last year, for what was essentially a checkup.

Rich found a disk fragment that was pinching a nerve, according to the release at the time of surgery. The decision was to perform the same surgery as in 2014.

"In listening to him, he's encouraged that he's going to be able to hopefully get this right again and be to a place where he can just go and compete and stop having to do the fits and starts,'' Steinberg said last month.

Based on his comments Tuesday, Woods seems intent on making sure he is fully healed and fit before he returns to competitive golf.

"First of all, I need to be healthy,'' Woods said. "I tried to fight through some stuff this year and it wasn't a lot of fun and I was in that much pain. On top of that, my first back operation, I was also in the midst of changing my swing, too. It was a tough situation to go through that.''

Woods said he was caught between doing the proper rehab on his back and doing what was necessary in practice to work on his swing.

"But I can't practice more if I can't rehab,'' he said. "I can't practice as much. I went most of last season [like that]. Then the last time, I played very well. It's just a matter of me getting healthy enough to go out and play.''

Woods dismissed most questions this year about his back and health, typically saying he was fine. Even at his last tournament, the Wyndham Championship, where at times he appeared to be favoring his back, Woods tried to downplay it.

It was at the Greensboro, N.C. , tournament where Woods held a share of the 36-hole lead, trailed by 2 heading into the final round and was still in contention heading to the back nine.

But Woods grabbed his back after a tee shot on the 11th hole, suffered through some poor chipping near the green and made a triple-bogey 7 to fall out of contention.

He then birdied four of his last five holes to post his best finish of the year, offering some hope heading into a time of year when he could rest, rehab and work on his game at his own speed.

He hasn't hit a meaningful shot since and doesn't know when he will.

"There's a process,'' he said. "Little stuff before I can get stronger. Then I have to get explosive. Then I have to do it for a long period of time. And then playing like that for a long period of time.

"I don't know how many months that it's going to be. But it won't be short. It'll take months of hard work.''