r Woods says he is ready to go in his return to tournament golf after recovering from back surgery. At least to a point.
Woods has had two months of rehabilitation following microdiscectomy surgery to correct the nerve impingement in his back. While he says he feels injury-free for the first time in two years, he also knows that his game is bound to be rusty when he tees it up in the Quicken Loans National Tournament at Congressional, near Washington DC, this week.
"Expectations don't change,'' he said today. "That (winning) is the ultimate goal. It's just that it's going to be a little bit harder this time. I just haven't had the amount of prep and reps that I would like, but I'm good enough to play, and I'm going to give it a go.''
The 14-time major champion revealed today the extent of his rehab, spent mostly at home in Jupiter, Florida. He stood up on the back of a golf kart when playing, because sitting is not ideal for recovery from a back operation, and scored okay, too. "Ibroke 50 for nine, first time, just like I was when I was three,'' he said. "So I'm sneaking up on it. My prime's coming up!''
On the course he has in his property at Jupiter, he filled the holes with sand so that he would not need to bend to pick the balls out of the cup, but he still knew if the putt was good. Then he graduated to chipping, then a full-swing, struggling to hit hit eight-iron shots more than 120 metres. Several weeks ago, he stepped up to the driver, without incident.
Woods said the injury was by far the worst he has endured. "Pre-procedure, right before I went in …I wasn't able to function,'' he said. "I couldn'tget out of bed. I just couldn't do any normal activities. When I blew out my knee and even had my achilles problems, I could still do things. I would still be able to function. This was different. Anyone's that's had any kind of nerve impingement, it's no joke.
"That part was relieved as soon as I got out of the surgery. That nerve impingement, that pain that I was feeling going down my leg was gone. I've heard numerous people talk about it, and I've had people come up to me and say they had the same procedure and got their life back and that's basically how I felt. I was able to do things, and do things that I normally took for granted.''
At 38, he admits to feeling his age, and he draws upon his friend Michael Jordan for inspiration. "I feel old!I'm sorry, but the name escapes me, the Chinese kid who qualified for the Masters last year (Guan Tianlang); he was born after I won the tournament (in 1997). That's just not cool, you know. That's what's coming, the next generation. And they are taller, bigger, they are more physical, just like in all sports across the board, and golf is no exception.
"You look at these kids in college, all the long hitters are 6-2 to 6-4. They are just big guys and they can move it out there. But the difference is, you know, as you age and as I've aged, I can't play the way I used to. I was No. 2 in driving distance for a number of years, only behind John Daly. Now if you average over 300 yards, I don't think you're in the top-10. It's changed dramatically.
"But, just like MJ (Jordan), I've got a fadeaway now. I've had to rely on different parts of my game and strategy and understand how course management skills are improved; where to miss it, how to miss it, and obviously the amount of shots that I've learned over the years, not just from my own trial and error but from older players that I've talked to, it's allowed me to be as consistent as I have over the course of my career.''