Woods says he's off crutches, but no definite timetable for return


Tiger Woods' knee surgery, performed on April 15, just two days after he finished second at the Masters, came as a surprise to many, even those who are close to the golfer.

But the world's No. 1-ranked golfer wrote in a newsletter to fans Friday that his left knee had been bothering him for some time and that the surgery performed in Utah was inevitable.

"I knew a couple of months ago I was going to have the surgery," Woods wrote. "The knee has been bugging me for a while. The only decision was do you miss the Masters or play in the Masters? I decided to play. Even if I had won, I still would have had the surgery."

Woods said that he is no longer using the crutches he needed last Saturday to get around at his Tiger Jam VI fundraiser in Las Vegas, that he is wearing a knee brace and that he hoped "to start rehabbing soon."

Original estimates put Woods out for four to six weeks, which means he should be back in time for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which begins June 12. He could also return for the Memorial Tournament, which begins May 29. Woods gave no timetable.

Woods is skipping the defense of his Wachovia Championship title next week and will also miss the Players Championship, which begins May 8.

"The doctors have said I should be able to play again in four to six weeks, but nothing is certain," he wrote. "I'm just going to do what they tell me to do."

Dr. Thomas Rosenberg performed the arthroscopic surgery in Park City, Utah. The same orthopedic surgeon also was involved in a procedure to drain fluid from the knee in 2002. This time, the operation was so secret that most did not know of it until the announcement on Woods' Web site that the surgery had been performed.

Among those who didn't know was instructor Hank Haney, who acknowledged that Woods' knee had been bothering him for the latter half of 2007 -- when he still went on to win four of his last five starts on the PGA Tour, including the PGA Championship.

GolfWorld magazine suggested that a celebratory fist pump during the final round at the PGA in Tulsa, Okla., in which Woods stepped awkwardly off the green after draining a birdie putt on the eighth hole, did not help. Woods' left knee buckled, and he walked with a limp, but downplayed the incident when asked about it afterward, saying, "As far as hurting myself, no. All good."

In retrospect, others admit noticing that Woods was favoring the knee. Two-time Masters champion Tom Watson said last week that "it didn't look like he was swinging very well," at the Masters. "He was standing straight up at impact. He got tall at impact too many times and couldn't get around on that knee."

Heading into the Masters, Woods had won four of his five worldwide starts this year and had no finishes outside of the top five going back to last July's British Open, where he tied for 12th.

That run of success coupled with Woods' contention that he was playing some of the best golf of his career led to speculation that he could capture the Grand Slam this year. That ended at the Masters, where he finished three strokes behind winner Trevor Immelman.

"I've definitely been playing in pain, but that's not why I didn't win at Augusta," Woods wrote. "I just never got comfortable with my putting stroke. As I said after the tournament, I was dragging the putter coming through which meant I couldn't start the ball on line. That's all it takes on those greens. Obviously, it was frustrating because I hit the ball well enough to win. It was just one of those things."

Woods also used his forum to reiterate his comments at Augusta that the course may have gotten too severe.

"I didn't hear as many roars as I usually hear, especially on the weekend," he wrote. "It did play like a U.S. Open course, which is fine. But I think the galleries are used to seeing birdies and eagles. On Sunday, the way the wind was blowing, it was tough to make pars. I hear the club might be making some changes next year to give us a break. We'll see what happens."

Woods said that he is "stir crazy" and that although "I've been through this before and understand the need for patience, I don't enjoy sitting around."

The newsletter is made available to those who register for it at Woods' Web site, www.tigerwoods.com.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.