MIAMI (AFP) – Tiger Woods refused to put a timetable on his return to tournament golf on Tuesday in his first public appearance since a serious car crash earlier this year that left him “lucky to be alive”.
Speaking to reporters in the Bahamas ahead of the Hero World Challenge, Woods said he would never regain full strength in his right leg, which was left shattered after the crash in Los Angeles in February.
Woods, 45, told Golf Digest in an interview on Monday his days as a full-time professional golfer were over, saying that he would pick and choose tournaments from now on.
On Tuesday, the 15-time major winner gave no indication of when he expected to be fit enough to play a full 72-hole professional event, repeatedly emphasizing that his recovery was ongoing and that he still felt pain in his back and leg.
“As far as playing at the tour level, I don’t know when that’s going to happen,” Woods said.
“Now, I’ll play a round here or there, a little hit and giggle, I can do something like that,” Woods said.
Woods reiterated that he expects his post-accident career to mirror that of golfing great Ben Hogan, who was badly injured in a 1949 accident.
Hogan, who won 64 PGA Tour events and nine majors, never played more than nine tournaments in a season following the accident.
“I don’t foresee this leg ever being what it used to be, hence I’ll never have the back what it used to be, and clock’s ticking. I’m getting older, I’m not getting any younger,” Woods said.
“All that combined means a full schedule and a full practice schedule and the recovery that would take to do that. I don’t have any desire to do that.
“But to ramp it up for a few events a year as Mr Hogan did, and he did a pretty good job of it ˗ there’s no reason that I can’t do that and feel ready.
“I may not be tournament-sharp in a sense that I haven’t played tournaments, but I think if you practice correctly and you do it correctly, that I’ve come off surgeries before.
“So I know the recipe for it, I’ve just got to get to a point where I feel comfortable enough where I can do that again.”
Although Woods would not speculate about a possible target for return, he admitted he would be keen to play at next year’s British Open, which will mark its 150th anniversary at St. Andrews, the home of golf where Woods has won twice before.
“Yeah, I would love to play at St. Andrews, there’s no doubt about it,” Woods said.
“Physically, hopefully I can. I’ve got to get there first. Tournament’s not going to go anywhere, but I need to get there.