Tiger Woods is getting really good at video games. Unfortunately, what he’s not doing is hitting golf balls with a full swing. It’s been seven weeks since Woods endured surgery to alleviate a pinched nerve in his back and he still doesn’t have a set return date to when he’ll be ready to return to competitive golf — or simply regular practice, for that matter.
Woods made his first public appearance since his surgery at Congressional Country Club on Monday to promote the PGA Tour event he hosts, the Quicken Loans National, which also benefits his foundation.
Woods seemed pessimistic for a speedy recovery and avoided a specific timeline as to when he’ll be pounding drivers at full force. He’s definitely not playing the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 June 12-15. He’s probably not playing in his own event at Congressional June 26-29.
“There really is no timetable,” said Woods on Monday in a media conference. “I think that’s been kind of the realization to all of this is that there’s no date. It’s just take it on a daily basis. It’s not going to be up to me whether I play or not, it’s going to be up to my docs. I have to‑‑ obviously I want to play now. It would be nice to be able to go out there today and play with you guys, even though I really don’t like to play with you guys, but it would be fun. I miss playing. I miss being out there on the golf course and doing that. I miss getting out there and hitting balls like that and just playing. I miss the game.”
Again, he didn’t exactly paint a cheery outlook.
“Forget about competing at the highest levels, I just miss being out there and just being around the golf course,” he said. “As of right now, I can chip and putt, but that’s it. We are going to just take it slowly, and I don’t know how many more weeks I’m going to be at this pace, but at least I have something, so I’m able to actually get out there and chip and putt.
“But as far as full swings and that timetable about playing, I don’t know.”
Unsurprisingly, there are still a lot more questions than there are answers at this point in his rehab process, but the road back from surgery hasn’t been easy.
“It’s certainly debilitating initially, sore, pain,” said Woods, referring to the recovery. “Those are all things that do go away over time. This has been a different procedure than I’ve had in the past. Certainly a lot more tedious, I think, with the workouts and the little things you have to do, little minutia things you have to do on a daily basis. That’s been certainly a lot different than in the past with my other surgeries. This has been certainly eye‑opening in that respect, but I’ve had some great support.
“I think probably the hardest thing over this period, it’s been seven weeks I think almost to the day, has been trying to not do too much with my kids, Sam and Charlie. They saw me when I first got back, and I’m pretty sore and everything, but then again, they soon forget that and want to go out and play soccer and hit some balls or do something like that. That part has been hard.”
Besides not being able to play with his kids, he’s had to learn to exercise patience — not one of his strong suits.
“The hardest thing, as I’ve said, is not to do too much with my kids,” said Woods. “That’s been probably the most difficult and challenging part because they’re very active and like playing sports and so do I. That competitive part of me wants to get out there and wants to be out there with them. I’ve had to sit down and play catch with Charlie sometimes just sitting on the couch and get a little mitt and play catch that way. I’d like to get out there and throw with him, but I just can’t do it yet.”
The last time Woods played golf was the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where he shot a closing six-over 78 (clearly in pain). A day prior, he had fired a six-under 66 to jump into contention. In four starts this season, finishing 25th at Doral was his best showing.
“The time right before the surgery, I really couldn’t do much,” said Tiger. “Getting out of bed was a task, and forget about playing golf at the highest level. I couldn’t get out of bed. So yeah, I was certainly doubtful at that point.
“What was I going to feel like? Am I going to be pain‑free? Am I actually going to be able to do this again where I can get out of bed and go out there and play with my kids and play golf? All those things are up in the air. But after I had the procedure, it was immediate relief, and it’s just a matter of getting through that pain part. It wasn’t the shocking pain or debilitating pain, it was just pain from the surgery, from the incision, but it wasn’t like it was right before. That was no bueno.”
Once again, he has no clue when he can start swinging at full force. THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE IS BLEAK!
“I know that once I get to a point where I can start playing and start ramping things up is generally when I start getting antsy about getting out here and competing, but post‑surgery I’m really not because I know I just can’t do it,” said Tiger. “But as I said, once I start ramping it up and just getting out there where I can start playing holes and start playing 36 holes a day, those type of things is when I get very antsy and want to get out there and compete. But until then, until I get to that point, I really don’t feel that bad watching golf because I just know I can’t do it at that level.”
So, when will he be able to do that? He doesn’t know. Duh.
“I don’t know when I come back and start ramping it up how far am I away from being explosive,” said Woods. “Do I still have that capability of hitting the ball like that? But once I start feeling like that, I don’t think it would take more than a couple weeks to where I can get out there and feel like I can compete.
“Now, how rusty am I going to be? The more time you give me, I think the better I’ll be. But as far as‑‑ the great thing about what I’ve done so far and all my other previous surgeries is that I worked on my short game. Once I start expanding from there and start competing and playing, if I start spraying it all over the lot and not hitting it that great, at least my short game is solid. That’s one of the positives to it.”
Well, sounds like there are way more questions than answers. One thing for sure happened on Monday, though. Adam Scott dethroned Woods as the no. 1 player in the world rankings. During this latest stint, Tiger had held the top spot for 60 weeks — since he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship in 2013. He’s been no. 1 for a total of 683 weeks in his storied career.