BETHESDA, Md. — Seven weeks after undergoing surgery to alleviate a pinched nerve in his back, Tiger Woods still isn’t hitting full shots and remains uncertain about when he will be able to return to competitive golf.
That would appear to rule out next month’s U.S. Open, which starts June 12 at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
“There really is no timetable,” Woods said Monday at Congressional Country Club. “I think that’s been kind of the realization to all of this, is that there’s no date.
“It’s just take it on a daily basis. It’s not going to be up to me whether I play or not, it’s going to be up to my docs. I want to play now. It would be nice to be able to go out there today and play …”
On Monday, the day he was passed by Adam Scott for the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, Woods made his first public appearance since the March 31 surgery at Congressional Country Club, where the Quicken Loans National will be played starting June 26. The tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
“I miss playing. I miss being out there on the golf course and doing that,” Woods said. “I miss getting out there and hitting balls like that and just playing. I miss the game.
“Forget about competing at the highest levels, I just miss being out there and just being around the golf course. As of right now, I can chip and putt, but that’s it. We are going to just take it slowly, and I don’t know how many more weeks I’m going to be at this pace, but at least I have something, so I’m able to actually get out there and chip and putt. But as far as full swings and that timetable about playing, I don’t know.”
Little appears to have changed since two weeks ago, when Woods wrote on his website that his rehab was “a slow process.” On Friday at a private clinic in Las Vegas, he said again that he hopes to return this summer but that he is in “no rush.”
“It’s certainly debilitating initially — sore, pain,” Woods said of the time after the surgery. “Those are all things that do go away over time. This has been a different procedure than I’ve had in the past. Certainly a lot more tedious, with the workouts and the little things you have to do, little minutiae, things you have to do on a daily basis.”
But as several big tournaments approach, his ability to compete appears less likely. The U.S. Open at Pinehurst is just 24 days away. The Quicken Loans National is just two weeks later, and it would be a blow to him and his foundation were he to miss the tournament.
Quicken Loans is a new title sponsor of the 8-year-old event, one of three on the PGA Tour where proceeds are donated to his foundation. Woods missed the tournament last year with an elbow injury.
Woods would not rule any of them out, but his words suggested it would not be soon.
“I’d love to play, but I just don’t know,” Woods said. “And as I said, that’s one of the more frustrating things. There’s no date, there’s no timetable. Just taking it day by day and just focusing on trying to get stronger and come back.
“I want to play today, but that’s just not going to happen. So just taking it step by step.”
Woods has not played since the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship on March 9. A day after shooting 66 to get into contention, Woods was clearly in distress during a birdieless round of 78. It was just his fourth tournament of the year, and 25th place turned out to be his best finish.
He subsequently skipped his title defense at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then a week later withdrew from the Masters, missing that major championship for the first time in his career.
Injuries have kept Woods out of five majors since he won his 14th in 2008 at the U.S. Open. Knee surgery after that victory led to an eight-month layoff and caused him to miss the Open and PGA championships.
In 2011, Woods missed the U.S. Open and Open Championship because of knee and Achilles injuries that kept him out for four months. Upon returning late in the 2011 season, Woods dropped as low as 58th in the world.
But he climbed back to the top. His victory at the 2011 Chevron World Challenge — the end-of-the-year unofficial event that also benefits his foundation — was his first anywhere in more than two years and came with much-needed ranking points.
He then won three times in 2012 — had finished third at the Open Championship — followed by five more victories last year, including wins at the Players Championship and two World Golf Championship events. His victory at WGC-Cadillac moved him to No. 1 in the world. He finally fell from that spot on Monday, with Scott moving ahead of him while Woods’ immediate future is in doubt.
Woods had been No. 1 for 60 weeks and a total of 683 in his career.
Asked how long it would take to be competitive once he is cleared by doctors to do everything, Woods seemed to wonder himself.
“When I come back and start ramping it up, how far am I away from being explosive?” he said. “Do I still have that capability of hitting the ball like that? But once I start feeling like that, I don’t think it would take more than a couple weeks to where I can get out there and feel like I can compete.
“Now, how rusty am I going to be? The more time you give me, I think the better I’ll be. But as far as the great thing about what I’ve done so far and all my other previous surgeries is that I worked on my short game. Once I start expanding from there and start competing and playing, if I start spraying it all over the lot and not hitting it that great, at least my short game is solid. That’s one of the positives to it.”