Woods’ spinal fusion pays off

Tiger Woods has made such a great recovery from last April's spinal fusion surgery that many might wonder why he did not have the procedure sooner.

Woods said on Sunday (ADST), however, that he had not been prepared to risk it until he basically had no other choice if he wanted to have a chance of living pain-free and playing competitive golf again.

"This is uncharted territory," Woods told reporters after moving within one stroke of the lead going into the final round at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida.

"No one has ever had a lower lumbar fusion where I had it and come out here and played.

"I didn't want to go there. That was last-case resort and ended up being the only option I had left. We exhausted all the non-surgical options.

“My disc was still intact so we're trying to save the disc and I just never know with the future."

Swinging fluidly, Woods generated more clubhead speed than any other measured swing on the PGA Tour this year – 207 kilometres per hour with his drive at the 14th hole at Innisbrook Resort.

He carded 67 for eight-under 205, trailing only Canadian leader Corey Conners.

Whether or not he wins on Monday, for what would be his 80th career victory on the PGA Tour, the 42-year-old has already showed in his fourth official tournament since the fusion that he is not a spent force.

His health is a far cry from this time last year, when he says he could barely climb out of bed.

"I was living from minute to minute. You have no idea how hard it was," Woods said.