Two days before his return to competitive golf, Tiger Woods appeared at ease, continually asserting to the media that he’s pain free for the first time in years. Nevertheless, as the sport wonders what’s left in the 14-time Major winner’s tank following a 10-month sabbatical, Woods preached patience in his latest comeback efforts.
Speaking at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Tuesday, Woods maintained his quality of life has vastly improved since April’s surgery, his fourth on his back.
“I feel fantastic,” Woods said. “I didn’t realise how bad my back was. Now that I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, it’s hard to believe I was living the way I was living.”
The 42-year-old opened up on the issues he’s faced in the past, trying to add context to his current disposition.
“Last year I was struggling with the pain,” Woods said, regarding his short-lived 2017 comeback. “I was able to hit shots and play, but looking back it was slow-mo.”
Woods said he was even hurting in 2013, a campaign that saw Tiger capture Player of the Year honours.
When asked how his latest bid differs from past endeavours, Woods referenced nerve issues he was dealing with at the 2014 Hero, along with discomfort he battled last winter. “I’m not going to be dunking a basketball anytime soon, but I don’t have any pain anymore,” Woods said. “That’s why it’s different.”
However, Woods reminded those assembled that he’s only been able to practise for about a month, and that he’s still unsure of what restrictions he’ll face.
“I don’t know. I’m winging this by ear,” Woods said. “I don’t know what my body can or can’t do. I still don’t know. I don’t have any pain, but have some stiffness.”
Woods expressed frustration in the lack of precedent; most people have his surgery at 58, and few golfers have undergone this procedure while still in their playing days.
Woods also admitted he’s been unable to practise all the shots he needs to compete. Nevertheless, Woods stated he doesn’t feel rushed, and urged similar sentiments from fans and media.
“Let me play this event and see what I can and can’t do,” Woods said.
Woods is scheduled to return at 12:05pm on Thursday (local time), playing with Justin Thomas. It will be his first appearance since withdrawing from the Dubai Desert Classic in February.