(Reuters) - 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 Saturday, 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 third-round lead at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida.
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"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 on Saturday generated more clubhead speed than any other measured swing on the PGA Tour this year -- 129 miles per hour (207 km 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 Sunday for what would be his 80th career victory on the PGA Tour, 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.
He said that during his worst times he often thought about life before his back injury.
"A lot of times I did think about it. I was hoping something to take the pain away, I should get up out of bed and walk again.
"I was living from minute to minute. You have no idea how hard it was."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)