Tiger Woods admits he is “winging it” ahead of his latest comeback, but still harbours ambitions to remind his kids and a new generation of rivals that he is more than “the YouTube golfer”.
Woods has started just three events since August 2015 and withdrew from his most recent tournament in February in Dubai after an opening 77.
The 14-time major winner subsequently underwent spinal fusion surgery in April, his fourth back operation in the space of three years, but will return to action in this week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
“This surgery was about quality of life because I didn’t really have much,” Woods yesterday told a pre-tournament press conference ahead of the 10th comeback after an absence of 10 weeks or more in his career.
“I’ve been in bed for about two years and haven’t been able to do much. The neatest thing for me is to be able to get out of bed and I can grab a club and not use it as a crutch. This is very different because last year I was still struggling with the pain. I was able to hit some good shots but, looking back on it, I look like I was playing in slo-mo.
“I didn’t realise how bad my back had become because it’s been a slow degrading process.
“I’m winging this because I don’t know what my body can and can’t do yet. I don’t have any pain any more in my back but I do have some stiffness. Like ‘D’uh’, it’s fused. So just give me a little bit of time.
“I was talking to my surgeon (about) how long will this fused back hold up, but he said you’ll be fine for the rest of your life. It’s bone and bone, you’re fine.
“How hard is it to break a leg? It’s not easy and it’s not easy to break that part of your back. It’s still trying to sink in that I can start doing things like that, being more athletic. There’s still some apprehension going forward, no doubt. This week is a big step for me.”
Former world number one Woods is currently ranked 1,199th and is a 40/1 outsider in the 18-man field, which features several players who grew up as some of his biggest fans.
The likes of US PGA champion Justin Thomas, who will partner Woods in tomorrow’s first round, only turned professional in 2013, the year of Woods’ last tournament win.
“In an ideal world, I would like to have them feel what some of my past guys had to go against all those years,” added Woods, who has become friends with Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson through vice-captaincy roles in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
“I’d like them to feel that same way.”
Woods also wants his children Charlie and Sam to see first-hand how good he is, especially after Sam’s comment earlier this year when being introduced to Lionel Messi.
“I said, ‘Ain’t it neat to meet a living legend’ and she said, ‘Yeah we live with one,’” Woods added.
“I never thought my kids understood what I’d been able to do in the game of golf because they always think I’m the YouTube golfer.
“They’ve never seen me in action. Charlie was there at Akron when I won last time, but he doesn’t really remember it.
“I want them to see what I’ve been able to do my entire career. I don’t know how long I’m going to be playing.
“I want them to come to a few events, feel it, understand it a bit more, kind of what Jack (Nicklaus) did with his kids, have Jackie [his son] carry the bag at Augusta.”
Asked if he could still be better than the “YouTube legend”, Woods joked: “That’s gonna be hard. I mean I was pretty good! They show only my good shots, they don’t show many bad shots in my highlights.”
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