Woods admits full-time career over, may play ‘one or two’ events a year
Tiger Woods believes he can still play “one or two events a year”, but is resigned to never reaching the top of his sport again and is just happy to still have both legs. His admission will cause waves through the golf world, which must now accept it will not see the 15-time major winner in his pomp again.
Woods, 45, has not talked in public since his life-threatening car crash in February, but he will give a press conference in the Bahamas at the Hero World Challenge, the event which his charity promotes.
He suffered catastrophic damage to his right leg in the accident in Los Angeles, leaving his playing future in doubt. However, in true Woods style he set social media alight last week when posting a clip of him hitting balls in practice.
The caption – “Making progress – only fuelled the belief that he might be seen as a competitive force again. Alas, this optimism was deflated in an interview with Golf Digest, the US magazine to which he is signed up, conducted by former British pro Henni Kovack.
“I think something that is realistic is playing the Tour one day – never full-time, ever again – but pick and choose, just like Mr [Ben] Hogan did. Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that,” Woods said.
“You practise around that, and you gear yourself up for that. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s my reality. And I understand it, and I accept it.”
Tiger Woods at the PNC Championship in Florida last December.Credit:AP
Hogan recovered from his own car crash in 1949 to win three majors in the 1953 season, including his only appearance in the British Open. Some might take Woods’ comparison as a positive but his comments do not inspire much hope of him resuming his chase of Jack Nicklaus’s record haul of 18 majors.
He completed a famous sporting revival from multiple back surgeries to win the Masters in 2019 – his first major triumph in 11 years – but he does not sound as if he thinks another stunning resurrection is feasible.
“I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life,” he said. “After my back fusion, I had to climb Mount Everest one more time. I had to do it, and I did. This time around, I don’t think I’ll have the body to climb Everest and that’s OK. I can still participate in the game of golf. I can still, if my leg gets OK, I can still click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation of me.”
Woods dampened hopes that he could appear on the PGA Tour soon. “I have so far to go… I’m not even at the halfway point,” he said. “I have so much more muscle development and nerve development that I have to do in my leg. At the same time, as you know, I’ve had five back operations. So I’m having to deal with that.
‘I wouldn’t say it was 50/50, but it was damn near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg.’
“So as the leg gets stronger, sometimes the back may act up… It’s a tough road. But I’m just happy to be able to go out there and watch Charlie [his son] play, or go in the backyard and have an hour or two by myself with no one talking, no music, no nothing. I just hear the birds chirping. That part I’ve sorely missed.”
If it sounds like a bleak picture, Woods stressed that he actually felt blessed. He suffered open fractures to the tibia and the fibula after losing control of his vehicle, was rushed to hospital and then transferred to a specialist medial centre, where he spent three weeks and faced the possibility of amputation.
“There was a point in time when, I wouldn’t say it was 50/50, but it was damn near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg,” he said. It’s a pretty nice house I’ve built for myself, but I hadn’t been able to do the one thing I love to do: I love to go outside and just be outside.
“Sometimes I just crutch and lay on the grass for an hour because I want to be outside. Missing the contact of a golf ball hit properly is one of the better feelings.”
Tiger Woods lit up social media last week with this footage of a practice swing.Credit:Twitter
Woods also revealed that he had spent time watching Charlie play in junior tournaments and had been helped by all the support, including from President Joe Biden. He is far from downbeat.
“There’s a lot to look forward to, a lot of hard work to be done being patient and progressing at a pace that is aggressive but not over the top,” Woods said.
“Obviously, when I get in the gym and I get flowing and the endorphins get going, I want to go, go, go,” he said. “That’s how I’ve been able to win so many tournaments. But then again, everyone reminds me at what cost? Look at you now. Pre-accident I was what? Ten surgeries. That’s just the wear and tear of doing my sport, of just trying to push it to win everything I possibly can.
“To win every single tournament I played in, I would do everything I possibly could. Like any sport, there’s a cost to it. There’s a cost of doing business and unfortunately, for sportsmen and sportswomen, injuries are a part of it.”
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