Tiger Woods' surgeon exclusive: 'He was in pain 24/7 - it's incredible he can still play golf to this level'

Robert Dineen
The Telegraph
Tiger Woods had to show huge strength of mind and willpower to return to elite sport - AP
Tiger Woods had to show huge strength of mind and willpower to return to elite sport - AP

The surgeon who advised Tiger Woods to undergo his career-saving spinal surgery has revealed that he did not expect the American to reach the level that would win him another major trophy.

Damian Fahy, consultant spinal surgeon at the Fortius Clinic, told The Daily Telegraph Woods was in pain almost 24 hours a day before he had spinal fusion surgery in 2017. The surgeon, who also advised Andy Murray ahead of his recent hip operation, said that Woods reminded him of the Scot in his professionalism and careful management of his treatment.

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Fahy spent several days with Woods deciding on how best to treat his lower-back problems and the first ambition for his treatment was simply to ease that pain and that returning to playing golf at any level was seen as a bonus.

The day after Woods completed a remarkable recovery by winning the Masters in Augusta, Fahy put the American's revival down to his strength of mind and the willpower he has shown through a long and difficult rehabilitation process.

"People don't realise just how much pain Tiger was in," Fahy said. "When he came to see me, his first thought was get to a place where he would be able to spend time with his kids without breaking down in agony. The pain was 24-seven.

"You never know how a person will recover - most of it will depend on the patient's strength of mind - but if he was to get back to playing golf at all, we saw that as a bonus. To get back the point where he could win the Masters is incredible.

"It took a tremendous amount of courage to go through what he did. He had achieved everything in the sport. A lot of people would have accepted that and retired to a quiet life, but that wasn't enough for Tiger." 

Woods turned to Fahy having undergone three forms of back surgery and being unsure whether his career would continue. Fahy spent a week examining his medical history going back four years and then ran through the options available to Woods. Fahy recommended that he underwent surgery with Richard Guyer at the Texas Back Institute in the United States.

"I have seen a lot of professional athletes and what separates the world-beaters from the rest is their strength of mind and this was absolutely the case with Tiger," Fahy said. "He was careful to understand every detail of his condition and what was available to him. He reminded me of Andy Murray in his level of professionalism and his total control of the situation." 

The procedure involved Woods having two bones fused in his lower spine. Fahy believes that it could enable Woods to continue competing at an elite level for potentially another decade. "There is no reason now why he could not carry on for another 10 years," he said. "He might get slower or lose a bit of strength, as happens naturally with age, but I don't think his back will be the reason for him quitting golf if and when that happens."

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