Tiger Woods will favour quality over quantity in a bid to prolong his career after admitting he was emotionally and physically drained by his Masters triumph.
Woods told Jack Nicklaus “I’m done” at the Champions Dinner ahead of the 2017 Masters, but flew to London later that night to consult a specialist, subsequently underwent career-saving spinal fusion surgery, and won his 15th major title at Augusta National last April.
The 43-year-old has played just 10 tournament rounds since, taking four weeks off before missing the cut in the US PGA Championship then finishing ninth in the Memorial Tournament and 21st in the US Open.
Woods went straight from Pebble Beach to Thailand on a family holiday and concedes his game is not as sharp as he would like ahead of the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, but believes he has no option but to play a limited schedule.
“Getting myself into position to win the Masters, it took a lot out of me,” said Woods, who has had four knee operations and four back surgeries during his illustrious career.
“That golf course puts so much stress on the system.
“Then if you look at that leaderboard after Francesco (Molinari) made the mistake at 12, it seemed like seven, eight guys had a chance to win the golf tournament with only six holes to play.
“I was reading the leaderboard all the time trying to figure out what the number is going to be, who is on what hole. And it took quite a bit out of me.
“Seeing my kids there, they got a chance to experience the Open Championship last year after their dad took the lead and then made a few mistakes. And this time they got to see me win a major championship.
“Charlie was too young to remember when I won in Akron (in 2013) and Sam was one when I won at Torrey (2008 US Open). My mom was there and she had been in ’97 for my first win.
So it was a very emotional week and one that I keep reliving. It’s hard to believe that I pulled it off and I end up winning the tournament.
Woods has not been helped by a change to the calendar in 2019 which saw the Players Championship move to March and the US PGA switch from August to May, meaning there is a major championship each month from April to July.
And he has learnt his lesson from 2018 when he played 19 individual events and arrived in Paris for the Ryder Cup exhausted after his victory in the Tour Championship just hours earlier.
“Last year I played a little bit too much, the body was pretty beat up,” said Woods. “After I won in Atlanta you saw what I did at the Ryder Cup.
“I was worn out and unfortunately I didn’t contribute to the team at all in points and we end up losing.
“A lot of it was trying to qualify for certain events, trying to get me where my world ranking would get me in some of the bigger events.
“So this year I made a conscious effort to cut back on my schedule. I want to play here as long as I possibly can and you have to understand if I play a lot, I won’t be out here that long.”
Woods won the last of his three Open titles in 2006 but held the lead with eight holes to play at Carnoustie last year. He takes inspiration from a 53-year-old Greg Norman finishing third at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and Tom Watson losing in a play-off at Turnberry 12 months later at the age of 59.
“Even if you don’t have the speed to carry the ball 320 yards anymore, you can still run the ball quite a bit out there,” added Woods. “You just have to navigate the bunkers and navigate around the golf course.
There is an art to playing links golf. It’s not ‘OK, I have 152 yards, bring out the automatic nine iron and hit it 152’. Here, 152 could be a little bump-and-run pitching wedge. It could be a chip six iron. It could be a lot of different things.
“My game’s not quite as sharp as I’d like to have it right now. My touch around the greens is right where I need to have it.
“I still need to get the shape of the golf ball a little bit better than I am right now, especially with the weather coming in and the winds are going to be changing.
“Today it was a good range session. I need another one tomorrow and hopefully that will be enough to be ready.”