RORY MCILROY dismissed the news of Tiger Woods' latest bout of surgery by declaring: 'He won the Masters after four back operations – why not five?'
And another player close to the 15 time Major champion, Justin Thomas, also insisted it would be foolish to write Woods off.
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Thomas said: “I’m certainly not worried about him. I will never be worried about his ability to play golf until he literally can’t walk any more.
“I saw him just after the procedure and he looked fine. He was in great spirits. And I’ve spoken to him and he says he’s doing great.
“The fact that he’s been through all this before probably helps him, because he knows how to recuperate and recover better after each procedure.
“I knew he’d had it done and that he just wanted to lie low for a while, and spend some time with his kids.
“It’s a time of year when he doesn’t play too often, so it was a good timing to get something like this done. It was a good opportunity to rest up and recover properly before he goes again.
“To him, it didn’t feel like it was a big deal anyway. And personally, I would always do anything I could do to help – because he’s Tiger Woods.
Woods, 45, only announced details of his latest back operation on Tuesday, saying it was a 'successful procedure to remove a pressurised disc fragment that was pinching a nerve'.
But McIlroy – who will return to action alongside Thomas at the Abu Dhabi Championship today – revealed Woods actually went under the knife on December 23.
McIlroy explained: "I've known for a while. In his words it was a small procedure.
"Obviously, any time you are being cut into you try to avoid that as much as you can. But he was back on his feet the next day so I don't think we can read too much into it.
"I think they were just trying to clean a couple of little bits up. Obviously he won't be playing for the next couple of months, but he should be back for the Masters, if not before that. So I think he'll be just fine."
Justin Rose, who is also in action in Abu Dhabi, said he bumped into Woods and his family a couple of weeks ago when they were on holiday in the Bahamas, and would never have suspected the former world No 1 had just undergone surgery.
Rose commented: “I didn't even realise he’d had an operation. I didn't notice anything. He looked well, and he was happy enjoying time with his family. He certainly wasn’t walking around like an old man or anything!”
Woods usually kicks off his campaign at next week’s Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.
But he has announced he will miss that event, and will not play when he hosts the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles from February 18-21.
But he is also a regular at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship in March, and could still use them to prepare for a tilt at a sixth Masters title the following month.
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