Jack Nicklaus on Tiger Woods: 'I never thought he would play again' after back fusion

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Jack Nicklaus on Tiger Woods: 'I never thought he would play again' after back fusion

PGA Tour

Jack Nicklaus on Tiger Woods: 'I never thought he would play again' after back fusion

DUBLIN, Ohio – Tiger Woods is back at Jack’s Place for his first Memorial Tournament since 2015, and the tournament’s host, Mr. Jack Nicklaus himself, believes Woods, 42, can contend this week at Muirfield Village if he “can just play reasonably well tee to green.”

About 14 months ago, Nicklaus didn’t even think Woods would play golf again, let alone contend.

Speaking Tuesday to a scrum of media members in the Muirfield Village interview room, Nicklaus talked about when he saw Woods at the 2017 Masters Champions Dinner at Augusta National.

Woods hadn’t played since withdrawing from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February with more back issues. Nicklaus had been trying to get Woods to see his back therapist, Pete Egoscue, for a while, but Woods had yet to take Nicklaus up on the suggestion.

“How you doing?” Nicklaus asked Woods.

Woods replied, “Not good.”

Nicklaus then said, “You know, Pete is happy to see you.”

To which Woods responded, “I’m ready.”

Woods ended up spending a couple of hours with Egoscue, Nicklaus said, but Egoscue couldn’t do much for the ailing Woods.

“Pete said, ‘I knew he wasn’t going to come back because I couldn’t get him out of his pain as fast as he wanted to get out of his pain,'” Nicklaus said. “He said, ‘I could’ve over a period of time.'”

Sixteen days after the Champions Dinner, on April 20, Woods had spinal fusion surgery.

“I never thought he would play again after that, after the fusion,” said Nicklaus, who referenced his own hip surgery at age 59. (He played PGA Tour events for six more years, including eight events a year later, but never won after that on Tour.)

Woods has since returned and made eight starts this season the PGA Tour. He has played well, too, surpassing most everyone’s expectations, including his own. He has four finishes of T-12 or better, including a T-2 showing at March’s Valspar Championship.

“I’m very happy for him,” Nicklaus said. “… To be able to come back from that and get his game and his life back in shape, he did a nice job.”

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