Road to recovery a mental, physical challenge


AKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods’ struggles with injury, rehabilitation and competitive reinstatement have been well documented this week as he makes his return after a three-month stint on the disabled list, but he is hardly the only player to ever plumb the depths of a career-threatening ailment.

Gary Woodland played on cortisone shots as long as he could until doctors told him a torn labrum in his left shoulder simply couldn’t withstand an action that is more explosive than most. In August of 2009 he had surgery to repair the injury and sat out the first four months of 2010.

There is a fitness trailer adage that says no one has ever come back too late from an injury, but Woodland, like Woods, is not the most patient person. “I came back too early. I came back after nine months (at last May’s Texas Open), which was about three months too early,” he concedes.

Woodland’s shoulder eventually healed and he rebounded by winning his first PGA Tour title earlier this year at the Transitions Championship. But for athletes like Woodland and Brandt Snedeker, it’s not the physical toll of the rehabilitation process so much as it is the mental impact.

Snedeker had surgery on his left hip in October to repair a torn labrum, and the two-time Tour winner was fine with the daily workouts, not the uncertainty that haunts all athletes when their bodies betray them.

“There were dark days. Days you wake up and feel worse than the day before,” Snedeker said. “Or you feel really good for six weeks and wake up the next day and can’t move.”

It happened to Snedeker, who spent six weeks on crutches following his surgery, last December after a round at Augusta National, of all places. It was the first time he’d walked 18 holes since his surgery and he spent the next day at the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta.

“I got home the next day and couldn’t walk and I was like, ‘Oh, God,’” said Snedeker, who finished in the top 10 in two of his first three tournaments back and is currently 13th on the FedEx Cup points list.

It’s likely a feeling Woods has had over the past three months. His only solace being the hope that, like Snedeker and Woodland learned, things do get better.