Tiger Feels Better, Ready to Shake Rust
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Tiger back in action

After playing the front nine at TPC Sawgrass, the site of this week’s Players Championship, on a muggy Tuesday afternoon, Tiger Woods felt hot. As for his health? “It’s alright. Good enough to play,” he said. Because of injuries to his left knee and Achilles tendon, he withdrew from last week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow — a course he says, “I truly love playing.”

The nine-hole practice round on Tuesday was the first time he’d played since the Masters. And he hadn’t hit balls until Monday.

“That’s the way it goes,” said Tiger who hurt himself during the third round of the year’s first major. “I have a slight injury, and you’ve just got to take some time off, listen to the docs and do the proper rehab.”

While the exact status of his heath is unclear, he’s competing at the PGA Tour’s marquee event because he needs reps before the US Open next month.

“The whole idea is that I peak four times a year and I’m trying to get ready for Congressional (this year’s US Open venue) and I need some playing time,” said Tiger. “This is a big event and I want to be here [at TPC Sawgrass] and play.”

He described the swelling and pain as “minimal,” unlike during the final round at the Masters last month. He described playing on Sunday at Augusta as “tough,” but he managed to power through and play.

Tiger, who missed several short putts coming down the stretch at the Masters, admitted his short game has suffered since he’s started working on swing changes with instructor Sean Foley.

“[My putting is] not very good quite frankly,” said Tiger. “I haven’t chipped as much, I haven’t putted as much because I’ve been working on my full swing. That’s part of the trade-off. You can’t do all of the above. Things are starting to piece together and it takes time. I’ve gone through this stretch before where I’ve had to change my release and my swing and everything.”

Maybe he should chat with Pat Perez, who went through what he called “major swing changes” earlier this season! It only took Perez three weeks to adjust and he’s notched three top-tens in the last month. But hey, to each his own, as Tiger would say — different players, different swings, and different changes.

Tiger is winless on the PGA Tour since September 2009. His fourth-place finish at the Masters gave him confidence that he was getting dialed in. And this isn’t the first time in his career that he’s struggled for an extended period of time and he’s managed to stay patient because of past experiences.

“If I hadn’t gone through it before, I probably wouldn’t have handled it like this,” he said. “The period I went through in ’97 through ’99 was brutal because I had never gone through a stretch like that ever. I made changes with Butch (Harmon) for the very first time in ’95, but I still won junior and amateur events. I was still able to win. But I went through a period there when I won one tournament in two years.”

I’m not sure which two years he’s referring to, because correct me if I’m wrong, but he won at least 10 times between ’97 and ’99.

Woods will see if he can break his streak this week at TPC Sawgrass, where he has not finished better than eighth since hoisting The Players trophy in 2001.

“We’ll see how this week progresses,” he said. “If it flares up like it did at Augusta, then it flares up, but hopefully it doesn’t.”

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t inspire too much confidence in me — certainly not enough to pick him for my Fantasy Golf team!

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)