Surgery forces Tiger out of season opener
By Harry Blauvelt, USA TODAY
Tiger Woods will not be slipping on a victory lei at next month's Mercedes Championships in Hawaii, as he did in 1997 and 2000. He'll miss the PGA Tour's season-opening event on Maui to rehabilitate his left knee after arthroscopic surgery.
Tournament director Gary Planos got a call Dec. 12, the day of the surgery, from IMG's Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent. Steinberg said Woods would be unable to play the Jan. 9-12 event on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
"He told me Tiger underwent surgery, and he wanted me to know before the news was released," Planos said Sunday. "All we care about is that Tiger gets well. We'll miss him. We hope he wins early in 2003, so we can plan for him to be back in 2004."
The tournament is a limited-field competition featuring only the winners from the previous year's PGA Tour events.
Woods had successful arthroscopic surgery to remove fluid inside and outside the anterior cruciate ligament. Benign cysts also were removed. A benign tumor was surgically removed from the same knee in 1994.
"I had been playing in pain most of the year and felt it was time to take care of it," Woods said on his Web site. "From what I have been told, the operation went well. I'm looking forward to a full recovery and a great start to 2003."
Last week's one-hour procedure was performed by Thomas Rosenberg at HealthSouth Surgical Center in Park City, Utah.
"The surgery was uneventful," Rosenberg said. "Progressive, full recovery is expected over the next couple of months."
Woods, who will turn 27 on Dec. 30, is expected to be off his feet 7-10 days, then start light rehabilitation. He's never before missed a tournament because of injury.
How quickly Woods' knee heals will determine when the world's No. 1 player returns to the PGA Tour. It might be the Feb. 13-16 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, Calif. He won there in 1999.
If his knee holds up, he could remain in his native California the next two weeks and play the Nissan Open in Pacific Palisades and the Accenture Match Play Championship in Carlsbad.
The rest of his early schedule through the April 10-13 Masters, where he'll be going for a record third consecutive crown, might also include two Florida events: Bay Hill Invitational on March 20-23 in Orlando as defending champ and The Players Championship on March 27-30 in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Although Woods was bothered by inflammation in his left knee most of 2002, he won six times worldwide. His five PGA Tour victories included The Masters and the U.S. Open. He became the first golfer since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to win those two major championships in the same year.
He had the knee examined after the Tour Championship and reported inflammation, which he treated with ice and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Woods then played three consecutive weeks. He finished eighth in Japan, won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii with rounds of 66-61 for a 14-stroke victory, won four skins in the Skins Game to finish last, and was runner-up last week in the Target World Challenge.
During the final round, he was limping badly after hitting out of thick rough from an uphill lie on the ninth hole. Asked whether he was hurt, Woods replied, "Same old thing."
Woods has been relatively injury-free since turning professional in 1996. He had a stinger in his left wrist when he tried to hit through a softball-sized rock at the 1999 Tour Championship in Houston.
He also sprained ligaments in his left knee at the 2001 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when a fan accidentally tripped him up while trying to get an autograph. Woods had a sore Achilles' tendon during the U.S. Open that year at Southern Hills.
Woods has won the Mercedes twice, including a duel with Ernie Els in 2000 when matched eagles on the 72nd hole and birdied the first playoff hole before Woods won with a 40-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole.