I have a long way to go: Tiger Woods on his return to top-level golf

Tiger Woods poses at the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas. (Supplied photo)
Tiger Woods poses at the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas. (Supplied photo)

Woods said he is acutely aware of fans' expectations of him

By Joy Chakravarty

Published: Wed 1 Dec 2021, 12:23 AM

There was a short, approximately a foot-high, step that Tiger Woods needed to climb to reach the platform from where he’d address his first press conference since the February 23 accident that nearly resulted in an amputated right leg.

That little step tested him. It was also a great indication of what lies ahead of him as he embarks on a possible journey to climb back to the summit of the golfing world.

Apart from little signs like that as he appeared at the Hero World Challenge hosted by his foundation, the 45-year-old Woods showed off a physique of a boxer’s upper body and the mental resolve to go through the tortuous grind of yet another comeback.

The winner of 15 major titles, and two Dubai Desert Classics, said he has started working towards a comeback.

But he hasn’t reached the point where he was able to put together a specific plan.

“Am I going to put my family through it again, am I going to put myself out there again? We had a talk within the family, all of us sat down and I asked if this leg cooperates and I get to a point where I can play the Tour, is it okay with you guys if I try and do it? The consensus was yes,” said Woods, who had gone through five knee and five back surgeries before the accident in Los Angeles, which completely crushed his right leg.

“Internally, I haven’t reached that point. I haven’t proven it to myself that I can do it. I can show up here and I can host an event, I can play a par‑3 course, I can hit a few shots, I can chip and putt, but we’re talking about going out there and playing against the world’s best on the most difficult golf courses under the most difficult conditions. I’m so far from that.

“I have a long way to go to get to that point. I haven’t decided whether or not I want to get to that point. I’ve got to get my leg to a point where that decision can be made. And we’ll see what happens when I get to that point, but I’ve got a long way to go with this leg.”

Woods said he is acutely aware of fans’ expectations of him, and the general belief that he’d be able to come out swinging and win tournaments again.

The good news is, he is enjoying the challenge that his mind and body are posing right now, and he is embracing all the hard work that is required.

“I think I’ve proven that I can play this game at a high level for a long period of time and it’s awfully flattering that they think I can come back from this and win tournaments,” he added.

“For that to happen, I have a long way to go. I have a long way in the rehab process and it’s not the fun stuff of the rehab. It’s just reps and breaking up scar tissue and things that really hurt. So, that part of it is not going to be fun, but the challenge of it is. I enjoy the challenge of getting in there and trying to push it to the next level.

“Sometimes, it’s two steps forward, one step back, but you’ve got to go through it. I enjoy that part of it and maybe one day it will be good enough where I can get out here and I can compete against these best players in the world again.”

Woods also put to rest that he had no plans to join any competing league of the PGA Tour.

“I’ve decided for myself that I’m supporting the PGA Tour…that’s where my legacy is. I’ve been fortunate enough to have won 82 events on this Tour and 15 major championships and been a part of the World Golf Championships,” explained Woods.

“I understand that some of the comparisons is very similar to when Arnold (Palmer) and Jack (Nicklaus) broke off from the PGA of America to start the PGA Tour. I don’t see it that way. I think the Tour has done a fantastic job during a very difficult time during the pandemic when there were ample opportunities for players to leave.”

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