DUBLIN, Ohio – When it comes to injuries, Peyton Manning can relate to Tiger Woods. The legendary NFL quarterback nearly had his career cut short by a serious spinal injury, as well.
Manning had won a Super Bowl and been to 11 Pro Bowls when he had surgery in May 2011 to repair a herniated disc in his neck. The then-35-year-old came away from surgery having damaged a nerve and could barely throw a football, and then soon after re-herniated the disc and had to have a second surgery.
Yet Manning missed just one season and came back, with the Denver Broncos, and made three more Pro Bowls, led the league in passing yards in touchdowns in 2013 and added another Super Bowl ring in 2016 before retiring.
Woods, who has performed exceedingly well in his return from a spinal fusion (his fourth back procedure), is looking to find similar success on the golf course post-surgeries. Manning sees no reason why Woods can’t.
“He has learned to play golf in a new physical state, which is kind of what I had to do coming off my neck injury where had some nerve damage,” Manning said. “And you have to be flexible and be adaptive, and he has certainly done that.”
Manning played alongside Woods in Wednesday’s Memorial Tournament pro-am and had a chance to catch up with the 14-time major champion. They talked some about Woods’ rehab and how Woods had to change his swing to take pressure off of certain parts of his back.
“I couldn’t throw the ball the same way, didn’t throw it as far,” Manning said. “But you use your legs and you use your intellect and your experience, and you can still, as Hank Stram said, matriculate down the field. So Tiger can still matriculate down these fairways.”
Manning said Wednesday was his fourth pro-am pairing with Woods. They played twice together at Bay Hill and another time at Quail Hollow, in 2009. Manning had fun watching Woods hit “some of those classic long-iron shots” and hole a chip for birdie on the eighth hole “that was pretty much an impossible lie for any human.”
“But for him, he made it look routine,” Manning said.
“When I played with him all through the years, I used to kind of look away and listen for it. It just kind of had a different sound. With what little I know about the golf, the sound sure sounds familiar. It sounds the same and the results are matching with that correct sound.”
Asked if he thinks Woods can win this week, Manning, not surprisingly, nodded his head.
“He’s kind of knocking on the door and sooner or later it’s going to pop,” Manning said, “and it’d be great if it was here this weekend at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament. I’m certainly pulling for him.”