IT’S great to be back playing again after three months off. In that time I picked up a golf club twice. I used the time to work hard on my rehab with my back and mind. Being world No.1 is not easy. Winning and all that stuff is what we strive for, but I’ve learnt to be more open about things and to know when to say yes and no at the right times so I can prioritise hard work.

The back issue is something that has plagued me throughout my career … withdrawing from tournaments is a pain in the butt. But I’m feeling fit now and looking forward to a big year. As long as I remain addicted to the process of getting better I’ll be fine.

There’s been a lot of talk about my back injury but it’s not as bad as it could be. Degenerative discs generally get worse with time but in my case it is getting better. The problem is if I’m not diligent enough to stay on top of my core and corrective exercises then sooner or later it catches up with me. My specific issue is not in the L5 disc, it’s the facet joints that lock up and go into a spasm. That then takes me a week or two to get on top of it … no amount of cortisone I can put in my body can help it.

My back issues flared up last year because my swing got longer. That in turn created more speed, which was a more violent movement at the top of the swing and put more stress on my back. So I’m working hard on that. I’m not saying I’m clear yet but I’m cautiously optimistic.

People probably assume my back has been the most concerning injury I’ve had but it was actually my thumb. I thought I had to quit the game. I couldn’t hold a club and that’s a pretty important element in this sport. I remember sitting there and doctors pulled my thumb out so the knuckle could expand and they could inject cortisone just to numb the pain so I could attempt to play. Ironically, it was that last bit of transition speed through the top of my longer swing that caused my thumb injury. It was definitely my most concerning injury.

I was reminded recently I haven’t won a tournament in eight months. I’ve had longer droughts but this one wasn’t helped when I broke my driver during the 2016 US Open. I cracked the head and it was the driver I was winning with … driving it on a string. After that I just couldn’t find the right combination. It crept into my head and I started manufacturing things with my swing. And when you’re not in the middle of the fairway, you lose opportunities to score and win tournaments.


Last year I also wasn’t as deliberate going into a golf shot. I wasn’t as deliberate as I should be when gathering information before the shot. I was constantly thinking how everyone wants to speed up the game. In my opinion, I don’t care about speeding up my game. I’ve got to get back to what makes me good. If that means I have to back off five times, I will back off five times before I hit the shot. We’re trying to win. We’re trying to hit that one shot that will get me there. We’re driven by results and we want to be the best – you have to make sure you get everything correct. The average Joe doesn’t get that.

Everyone has a favourable club in the bag. For me, I love hitting the 2-iron off the tee. Being able to hit it 300 yards is nice and it’s what saw me go wire-to-wire in last year’s Players Championship. I wish I could get hard surfaces like that everywhere so I could just hit that club. The way I was putting last year felt like I had an opportunity wherever I was on the green. If I hit it to 100 feet, I gave myself a chance. Confidence is a great feeling.

Wearing Nike is a different look for me. A lot of people probably haven’t got used to me wearing the ‘swoosh’ yet. But I was wearing this when I was 16 and I was so happy because that’s what Tiger [left] was wearing. For this chapter of my life, it’s an exciting time. I feel like I’m coming into the peak of my career and now I’m wearing the best apparel brand in golf.