Tiger Woods admits he has yet to come to terms with winning his fifth Masters title at Augusta National.
Woods feared his career was over after three operations failed to solve his back problems and meant he only played a total of 24 tournaments in the space of four years.
It was only after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April 2017 that Woods was able to fully return to the highest levels of the sport, a comeback capped by winning his 15th major title after an 11-year drought in the Masters.
“I’ve just been home and letting everything thaw out and just trying to understand what I (have) accomplished,” Woods said in an interview with Golf TV.
“It’s very similar to what it was in 1997 and that took me years to understand what I had accomplished, and I don’t think this one will settle in for quite some time.”
Woods won his first major title by 12 shots in the 1997 Masters, famously completed the ‘Tiger Slam’ at Augusta National in 2001 having won the US Open, Open Championship and US PGA in 2000, and also claimed the green jacket in 2002 and 2005.
“This one feels special in its own way,” the 43-year-old added. “This year, to go 14 years between jackets is a long time.... and on top of that to actually have won my first major championship coming from behind.
“It’s so ironic, given my last few years of what I’ve kind of had to battle through, that now is finally the time I finally come from behind when I’ve had more game throughout the years, and I’ve had more runs, and I’ve been in situations where I’ve been in better spots. For some reason I got it done.”
Attention now turns to whether Woods can equal or surpass Jack Nicklaus’s all-time major record of 18 wins, especially with some favourable venues on the horizon.
Woods won the US PGA Championship in 2006 and next month’s edition is being staged at Bethpage, where he won the US Open in 2002, while June’s US Open will be held at Pebble Beach, scene of his 15-shot triumph in the same event two years earlier.
“Well, I always thought it was possible if I had everything go my way,” Woods said. “It took him (Nicklaus) an entire career to get to 18. Now that I’ve had another extension to my career, one I didn’t think I had a couple years ago, if I do things correctly, and everything falls my way, yeah, it’s a possibility.
“I’m never going to say it’s not - except for a couple years ago when I couldn’t walk.”
“The only thing I can promise you is this, that I will be prepared,” Woods added
Now whether or not it all comes together ... because you need to have mind, body and soul come together for those four days. That doesn’t always happen
“If you think about it, I’ve been out here what, 23 years or so? It’s only come together 15 times.”
Woods believes his run to Masters victory — his first major when he was trailing going into the final round — began last summer when he briefly held the lead Sunday at the British Open, and then pushed Brooks Koepka to the end in a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship.
“Those two major championships allowed me to have this one,” Woods said. “And hopefully, this one will allow me to have a few more.”
He attributed a big part of his Masters victory to a swing key leading up to the week that allowed him to hit draws with his driver. Woods conceded he no longer has the length that allowed him to hit 3-wood off several tees, which he could hit right-to-left more easily.
“I’ve lost a little bit off my fastball, so I’ve got to rely on the driver,” Woods said. “And so I found something in my game when I start feeling comfortable turning it.”
He also gave credit to his caddie, Joe LaCava, for persuading him to arrive at Augusta National on the Sunday afternoon before instead of Monday.
“That nine-hole session on Sunday set the tone for my mind being opened up to see the amount of break,” Woods said.