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Tiger Woods doubted he could ever play golf again

Tiger Woods tees off on the fourth hole

Tiger Woods tees off on the fourth hole during the final round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club. (Dec. 8, 2013) Credit: AP

In his first news conference since back surgery in March, Tiger Woods said Monday that, before the operation, the pain was so great he simply could not function. And he had doubts that his career could continue.

He is better now, but he still cannot come close to answering the question the golf world is asking: When will he be back?

"Forget about playing golf at the highest level. I couldn't get out of bed," Woods said yesterday at Congressional Country Club outside Washington, site of the Quicken Loans National tournament that Woods will host for the benefit of his foundation starting June 26. "I was certainly doubtful at that point. What's it going to feel like? Am I going to be pain free? Am I going to be able to actually do this again, where I can get out of bed, and go out there and play with my kids and play golf? All those things were up in the air."

The microdiscectomy March 31 gives him hope, but he has no timetable for a return.

"I think that's been kind of the realization to all of this, that there is no date," he said. It seems highly unlikely he will be able to play in that, or in the U.S. Open that begins June 12 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

All he can do is chip and putt. As for returning to competitive golf, "There really is no timetable."

Woods appeared at Congressional with representatives of Quicken Loans, a first-year title sponsor of his PGA Tour event. It will be disappointing to the company if the tournament's main attraction does not play. Woods, having been surpassed by Adam Scott for the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, made it clear it is just as disconcerting for him.

"I'd love to play, but I just don't know," he said. "That's one of the more frustrating things. There's no date, there's no timetable. [I'm] just taking it day by day and just focusing on trying to get stronger and come back."

The microdiscectomy is the most common operation performed by spine surgeons, said Dr. Andrew Hecht, chief of spine surgery at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The rate of full recovery is very high. But there is no clearly defined period.

He was bothered by back problems last August during The Barclays at Liberty National, but at the time blamed the soreness on a soft hotel mattress.

"I miss the game," he said. "I miss getting out there and hitting balls and just playing."

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