Tiger Woods finally spoke publicly this week about what the future holds for him and talked about his horrific injuries and recovery.
“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 from his South Florida home this week during some media duties over Zoom calls. “You practice 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.
“I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life. After my back fusion, I had to climb Mt. 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 Mt. Everest, and that’s OK. I can still participate in the game of golf. 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 was rushed to hospital after losing control of his automobile near Los Angele on Feb. 23. He suffered comminuted fractures to his tibia and fibula in his right leg and spent three weeks in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where for long spells, the possibility of the leg needing to be amputated was a very real one.
“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.” Tiger said, “Once I [kept it], I wanted to test and see if I still had my hands. So even in the hospital, I would have Erica throw me something. Throw me anything.”
After coming round in the hospital, Woods says that one of his first memories was asking for a golf club to hold in his hospital bed. He would need to remain in bed for three months, just over two of which were at home, before being able to move into a wheelchair. Finally, crutches gave Tiger some independence and allowed him to move around of his own free will.
“Adding that part into my day-to-day life was so rewarding because I’d been stuck in a house. Granted, 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.”
Woods talks about how frustrating the rehabilitation has been, progress coming slower than he hoped for and expected. He explains a technique he learned from his father to help pass the time in the dark days.
“This is where dad’s teaching came into play, being in the military and being Special Forces. Any SF operator can attest to this—you don’t know how long a firefight is gonna take. It could last five seconds or five hours, and some could go on for days at a time. With that in mind, you don’t know when the end is, so that’s the hard part. How do you get through that? One of my dad’s ways of getting through that was live meal-to-meal. … I just shortened up the windows of, Oh, this is gonna be nine months of hell, so It’s just two or three hours. If I can repeat these two to three hours at a time. Next thing you know, it adds up, it accumulates into weeks, months and to a point where here I am talking to you and walking into a room.”
Once Tiger was cleared again to practice some putting, he had to get the Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter that he won 14 of his 15 majors with lengthened as he couldn’t bend over the same way as before the accident. Chipping competitions with son Charly were the next stop on the rehabilitation train, and eventually, Tiger was given clearance for minimal full swing practice a few weeks ago.
“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 have to deal with that. 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 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.”
Woods will make his first official public appearance since the accident this week at the Hero’s World Challenge, a 20-man tournament in the Bahamas that works closely with Tigers foundation. It is encouraging to see Tiger walking about, but it is clear there is still a long road ahead.