Tiger Woods is confronting the very real possibility he might never tee up competitively again.
While the 14-time major champion says he still has the burning desire to return after a third back surgery, Woods says he’s in such poor physical shape that he can't even bend over to pick up a ball.
Speaking this week in the Bahamas as the host of the Hero World Challenge tournament that raises money for his charity foundation, the American sounded particularly downbeat about his chances of resurrecting his stellar career.
"I think pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy," said Woods, who has racked up 79 PGA Tour victories but will turn 40 later this month.
"I've passed Jack (Nicklaus, 73) in the all-time win list, just shy of Sam (Snead, 82). I passed Sam basically a decade ago in major championships, but I'm still shy of Jack's (record of 18).
"So I've had a pretty good career for my 20s and 30s. For my 20 years out here I think I've achieved a lot, and if that's all it entails, then I've had a pretty good run.
"But I'm hoping that's not it. I'm hoping that I can get back out here and compete against these guys. I really do miss it."
Having spiralled to No.400 less than two years after finishing 2013 at the top of the world rankings, Woods was melancholy – but realistic – about his condition.
He had a third microdiscectomy surgery last month — a procedure to remove bone around a pinched nerve to allow space for it to heal — and admitted he had no idea when he’ll swing a golf club again.
"I have no answer for that. Neither does my surgeon or my physio," he said.
"I listen to my surgeon, I listen to my physios, and we just take it day by day. Hopefully the day by day adds up to something positive here soon."
Woods won his last major title at the US Open in 2008 but hasn't had a significant victory since lifting the Bridgestone Invitational in 2013.
He previously suffered a serious knee ligament injury, but his back problem is proving particularly difficult psychologically.
"There is no timetable for this and that's been the hardest mindset adjustment is that I don't know," he lamented.
"Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don't know, so that's been hard.
"There is nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build towards."
Woods, who spent a record 683 weeks ranked as world No.1, revealed a lot of his time is spent playing video games and soccer with his kids, although his movement is severely restricted.
"I walk and I walk … I'm just walking, and that's it," he said glumly.
"I would like to be able to get to that first (bending over to pick up ball). If I can get to that, then we can start talking about golf."