It's been six months since Tiger Woods underwent yet another back surgery that prolonged his absence from the sport of golf, forcing him to miss all four majors after a brief return that ended abruptly after a missed cut at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open and a withdrawal after one round at the Dubai Desert Classic to open the calendar year.
He has now taken a major step forward in his return to the game. According to his agent, Mark Steinerg, Woods "got a nice report and is allowed to proceed" with all golf-related activities. "He can do as much as he needs to do," Steinberg told ESPN's Bob Harig. "Tiger is going to take this very, very slowly. This is good, but he plans to do it the right way."
Woods was given this clearance a few days ago, per Steinberg, who said the 14-time major championship winner has been pain free while swinging as of late. There is no planned return date for Woods with Steinberg admitting that it's not even a conversation at this time.
At the time of his withdrawal from the tournament in Dubai, Woods was said to be experiencing back spasms, per his agent. That injury eventually resulted in April fusion surgery after rumors swirled that Woods might even show up for the 2017 Masters.
The obvious target date in everyone's mind for Woods' return is the 2018 Masters. He hasn't played at Augusta National, where he's won four times, since 2015. Another potential return date would be at the 2017 Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. Woods hosts the event, and it's where he made his return from a previous absence last December. That seems outrageously optimistic, though.
Woods has had an unruly string of major injuries and off-the-course woes starting with a back surgery that caused him to miss the 2014 Masters and two subsequent surgeries after the 2015 Wyndham Championship. He returned from those after 16 months with the hope that all was well. But after the Farmers Insurance Open and Dubai Desert Classic, it was clear that all was not well. Woods went on to have the fusion surgery -- often considered a last-ditch effort to clear up nerve pain in athletes' backs. He said he felt "instant nerve relief."
Earlier this year, Woods was arrested for a DUI andto get treatment for how he manages his medications and deals with pain.
Of late, though, the signs have been encouraging. After saying at the Presidents Cup this September that he was hitting 60-yard shots, a series of videos were posted by Woods on Twitter showing him hitting full irons and a driver.
"I've been out of the game for a while," said Woods at the Presidents Cup a few weeks ago. "I'm very optimistic ... Like I said, the pain's gone, but I don't know what my golfing body is going to be like because I haven't hit a golf shot yet. So that's going to take time to figure that out and figure out what my capabilities are going forward, and there's no rush.
" I don't know what 100 percent means after eight surgeries, but I'll try and get as close as I can to that number, yes. But as I said, we just take it one step at a time. It's a process, and I'm in no hurry."
Woods' potential return to the sport is being embraced by his fellow pros. Guys like Rickie Fowler want to see him back on the course and back at the heart of the game.
"He's just fun to be around," Fowler told reporters. "He's a golf nerd like all of us. He just happened to be a lot better than anyone really has been. … He's got the bug. He's itching to get back playing, but his health is his main focus."
I'm a little surprised all of this has progressed so quickly. It feels like Woods went from 60-yard shots to banging drivers pretty quickly. But I suppose if he has the green light from his doctor, then all is well. I just hope that continues to be the case a year from now and beyond.