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Tiger Woods unsure if he will ever compete on PGA Tour: ‘I’m so far from that’

For the first time since his February car crash, Tiger Woods addressed the media.

Woods spoke in Albany, Bahamas, ahead of the Hero World Challenge, a benefit for the Tiger Woods Foundation. He discussed what he expects the remainder of his golf-playing days to look like, as well as what it took for him to reach the point in his recovery where he has been able to move around again without crutches or a wheelchair.

Here’s some of what Woods talked about: 

— Woods has dealt with injuries and surgeries in the past, explaining that he has had five knee surgeries and five back surgeries. However, recovering from his car crash in February he said has been more difficult, at one point noting that amputation of his right leg was “on the table.” Woods later explained that he felt “lucky to be alive, but also still have the limb.” Even as he was sitting at the table fielding questions, Woods said that he still felt pain in his back and his leg. 

Once recovery began, Woods said that while it was hard to be so limited, he understood the need to be patient from the past procedures that he’s done, and that while he needed to push himself to improve, he also shouldn’t go too far.

“When I blew out my ACL and broke my leg, it was, ‘You’re out for nine months.’ Well, that’s kind of a bummer. Nine months without coming back to sport. OK, well then back fusion surgeries, knee operations and all those different timelines. Just understanding that having the patience you know, within those timelines how much can we push and how much we can’t push. You have to push until it hurts, but you can’t go overboard. And that’s the hard part, but I’ve had so much experience in that regard that I know, ‘OK well did we take it a little too far, let’s pump the brakes. We’ll stop right here. OK you haven’t pushed me enough, now this is a good day. Let’s continue to go.”

— Woods said that it was hard to explain how challenging it was to remain immobile for three months, and said that he made it a goal to just get back outside. He described it as a milestone when he was finally able to be taken outside for the first time in a wheelchair and feel the sun for the first time since the accident. Woods said that he spent two months in a wheelchair before he moved to crutches and said that he then stopped using hte crutches “maybe a little earlier than they suggested.”

“Especially for a person who has lived his entire life outside, [getting outside] was a goal. And it finally got to that point when I transitioned from wheelchair to crutches to nothing. It’s been a lot of hard work. I’m very thankful to all the surgeons and especially the nurses who are the unsung heroes through all of it, were there by my bed and kept my spirits up, all my friends and family. There were some tough times in there. There were some really, really tough times and pain got pretty great at times, but they helped me get through it and I’m on the better side of it, but I’ve still got a long way to go.”

— Woods recounted how he has made the climb back to the top of the golf world before, including his Master’s win in 2019. He talked about how after surgeries, he would slowly build himself back up over time, performing better at events until he was able to compete in events like the British Open.

“I don’t see that type of trend going forward for me. I won’t have the opportunity to practice, given the condition of my leg, and build up. I just don’t. It’s going to have to be a different way of doing it. And that’s OK and I’m at peace with that. I’ve made the climb enough times.”

— It might be a while until Woods is playing competitively in golf again. He said that he doesn’t know when he might reappear at the PGA Tour level, saying that there might be a “hit and giggle.”

Part of that stems from what Woods has seen since he has returned to taking swings. He said that his shots aren’t going anywhere near the distance they used to, and that he might be more likely to play along the “Tee It Forward” initiative from the USGA and PGA Tour, where golfers set their tees at varying distances based on driving distance.

“I don’t like that the T is on back, so I like play it forwards. Come on, let’s move it up. Move it up. To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to is a little eye opening. But at least I’m able to do it again. That’s something that for a while there, it didn’t look like I was going to. I’m able to participate in the sport of golf. Now to what level, I do not know yet, and you know I’ll keep you abreast, all of you guys, abreast as progress continues to go on.”

— Woods talked about his relationship with his kids, and explained the importance of building up strength to be able to do things with them again. He said for most of their lives, they have seen him recovering from back surgeries, and that he would like to be able to go to his daughter’s soccer games or his son’s tournaments.

He also said that he has had discussions with his family about what it would mean for him to go back out and compete, if his leg cooperates, and that his family was supportive of him to go back out and compete if he is able to do so.

“Internally, I haven’t reached that point. I haven’t proven it to myself that I can do it. Yeah I can show up here and I can host an event, I can play a par three course or hit a few shots. I can chip and putt, but OK now we’re talking about going out there, 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. Now 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 that this year, he will only be hosting the Hero World Challenge, and that he will not be playing. He said that he has missed the game, and that he’s looking forward to being back out around the other golfers.

“It’ll be fun watching the guys come here and play, and tee it up and be out there. Because I’ve been away from the game for, call it an entire year, I’ve just missed the jabbing, the needling and you know, ‘How’s everyone doing?’ I mean, there’s only so much you can do via text and phone calls.”

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