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Tiger Woods. REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER
Tiger Woods. REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER

Tiger Woods returns to professional golf this week, and his reasons for teeing it up are profoundly few.        

“I love to compete. There will come a time when I can no longer win. When that time comes, I will walk away,” Woods said on Tuesday in Albany in The Bahamas as he prepares for the 2023 Hero World Challenge. “I love the camaraderie, being around the guys.”

Last seen at a competitive tournament limping through the 2023 Masters, Woods required ankle fusion surgery and another intensive rehab period to get his game to a level he felt was up to his lofty standards. He finally decided after working as the caddie for his son, Charlie, that endurance was no longer a roadblock.

“My game feels rusty,” the 15-time Major champion said. “I haven’t played in a while. I’m excited to compete and play. I’m just as curious as all of you are to see what happens. I can tell you this, I don’t have any of the pain I had in Augusta in my ankle. Other parts are taking the brunt of the load. But that surgery was a success.”

The 47-year-old Woods has struggled to walk 18 holes since his February 2021 car accident that resulted in severe injuries to his right foot and leg.

But in a repeat of statements he made in his previous return to tournament golf, Woods said he wouldn’t be playing if he didn’t believe he could win.

Woods, who shares the record for PGA wins with Sam Snead (82), said his ideal scenario for the 2024 season would be playing one tournament per month. He’s optimistic his body is ready for this week but doesn’t want to make long-term decisions about his schedule without real-time gauges of his readiness starting this week.

“I was hitting golf balls a lot trying to get Charlie ready for the event and then post-event. I thought, ‘I can probably do this’,” Woods said. “I’ve played a lot of holes. I haven’t used a pencil and a scorecard.”

Even if Woods’ limp is eliminated and his leg strength isn’t a worry, there are physical constraints to his game that weren’t there five or 10 years ago.

Still, Woods said there is no worry in his mind about walking 90 holes thanks to “the hardware placed in my foot”, but “my knee hurts, my back ... the force has to go somewhere. It’s just up the chain.”

Woods said he faced a decision to add hardware to his ankle or replace it.

“It was bone on bone. The only way to fix that was to replace it or have it fused,” Woods said. “The next part is the hard part. The six months of doing nothing. The first couple months were really rough ... I’m here on the good side now.”

Field Level Media

 

 

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