With Tiger Woods sidelined indefinitely following another procedure on his back, Rory McIlroy believes that the former world No. 1 faces a "long road ahead" as he looks to return to competition.
McIlroy is playing this week at the Turkish Airlines Open, and he learned Friday night of Woods' decision to undergo a follow-up procedure to relieve discomfort in the wake of his second microdiscectomy surgery, performed Sept. 16. McIlroy reiterated that Woods' absence is felt by the game of golf as a whole, and he believes it may be a while before the 14-time major champ is seen again inside the ropes.
"I think any time you touch your back, it is tough," McIlroy told the Irish Golf Desk. "It looks like it is a long road to recovery for him, and I just hope he gets better, not just to play golf but just for everyday life and being able to do everyday things more than anything else."
Woods, who will turn 40 in December, underwent his first microdiscectomy in March 2014 and missed 11 weeks of competition as a result. While the announcement of his September surgery brought with it an estimated return in "early 2016," this latest procedure has him on bed rest and there is now no timetable for his return to the PGA Tour.
"That's his third back surgery in just over a year, and like someone once said, the best way to avoid your fifth back surgery is not to do the first one," McIlroy said. "But it's a procedure he needed, he needed it. I just hope he gets better."
Woods showed signs of returning to form toward the end of this season, and his T-10 finish at the Wyndham Championship in August was his first top-10 result in nearly two years. But that proved to be his last start of the year, as he announced his latest microdiscectomy just weeks later.
McIlroy remains optimistic that Woods will return - but it may take some time.
"He has that mindset that he can overcome things, and he has overcome things before," he said. "But as I said, I think it will be a long road ahead."