Tiger Woods is 15 minutes into his first public appearance since a horrific car accident in February, and he’s taken the measure of his career as he assesses an uncertain future and a famous past.
“I just got my last major,” Woods said in a sad note on Tuesday. its stunning 2019 winnerHe is 43 years old in the Masters Tournament, the most watched event in golf.
But reaching a similar pinnacle in golf is no longer at the top of Woods’ plans.
“I ran a pretty good run,” said Woods with the thinnest smile, nine months after he suffered devastating leg injuries when his sport utility vehicle rolled off a Los Angeles area boulevard at high speed. . “For me, I don’t see such a trend going forward. It will have to be a different way. I’m okay with that. I’ve done the climb enough times.”
In that moment, one of the most influential athletes of the last quarter century stepped out of the brightest spotlight in sport. While Woods didn’t offer any timeline for achieving that ambition, he said he hopes to play competitive golf at some level again. Instead, a dedicated sports champion admitted that his surgically reconstructed right leg would forever hinder his once-high expectations and drive.
“A complete training program and the recovery required to do it,” he said, “no, I have no intention of doing that.”
This was a striking compromise for the dogged Woods and a turning point for golf and the sport in general. Since winning the first of 15 major golf championships in 1997, Woods has been among the world’s foremost people, with world-renowned likeness and ubiquitous commercial endorsements.
Yet for all his victories and accompanying fame, the February crash and its debilitating consequences were in keeping with a recurring cycle of fortune and misfortune that would forever mark the narrative of his life—all of Woods’ own work.
At the height of his fame, in 2009, when he appeared doomed to easily beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major golf championships – Woods already had 14 – news of serial infidelity cost him his marriage, and he was ostracized by many in golf. society. Numerous corporate sponsors have deserted him. Scandal set him in motion long break from golf.
When Woods returned to competition, he struggled to find his former form, in part due to the physical ailments associated with his hallmark of obsessive, perhaps overly aggressive, exercise regimen. Worse still for Woods, at the same golf courses where he was greeted with frenzied cheers, he was met instead with an eerie silence that amounted to contempt.
Over time, he became an afterthought as a wave of young golfers replaced him on the leaderboards. Woods’ landing sparked a decisive action: in the middle of the night arrest He uncovered an opioid addiction in May 2017. Police detained Woods after he was found alone and asleep in his car with the engine running, by the roadside.
In keeping with his career, Woods’ resurrection was dramatic and irresistible.
He was not seen as a serious contender at the 2019 Masters. Still, Woods rejuvenated as he played the final holes of the final round on the sacred grounds of Augusta National Golf Club. He played his best golf by playing young opponents in the pale, smashing three of his last six holes to claim his fifth Masters title. when it sinks winning shot On the 18th hole, Woods celebrated with a primal scream, matched by the thousands of fans surrounding the green.
Two years ago, Woods ranked 1,119 in the world. was down in line. His comeback is among the greatest in the history of the sport, given his off-course challenges.
While Woods remained competitive in 2019 and won one more event, the pandemic has resulted in a long departure from golf. In January of this year, he had a fifth back surgery that excluded him. He hoped to return by April.
On February 23, the police determined Woods was driving around 85 mph in a 45 mph zone on the winding Southern California road when he lost control of his SUV. Woods suffered multiple open fractures of the shin and fibula in his right leg.
Speaking on Tuesday ahead of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, a tournament that has benefited Woods’ foundation, he briefly discussed the accident and the aftermath, which included the possibility of amputating his right leg.
“I feel lucky to be alive but I still have a limb – those are two important things,” said Woods, 45. “So I’m very, very grateful that someone upstairs can take care of me, and I can not only be here but also be able to walk with a prosthesis.”
When asked what he remembers about the accident, Woods said, “Yes, all these answers were answered in the investigation. So you can read everything there in the police report.”
Woods has repeatedly said in an investigative statement that he does not remember how the accident occurred. He was not charged with any legal violations. When asked if he had flashbacks or a last memory of the event, Woods replied, “No way. I am very lucky in this regard.”
Woods said he deliberately did not follow news accounts of the accident while he was being hospitalized.
“I didn’t want my mind to go there,” Woods said, adding that even when he was on medication, he was in severe pain. Asked if he was still in pain, he grinned and nodded.
“Yeah, my back hurts, my leg hurts,” Woods said.
Woods seemed most comfortable discussing what he could and couldn’t do on the golf course. Some holes started to play, but many of his strokes “fall out of the sky” much earlier than they once did, noting that his stroke lacked speed and power.
“It’s eye-opening,” Woods said, chuckling in support of a United States Golf Association initiative that encourages golfers to play from tees that can significantly shorten the length of courses. “I really like that idea.”
The comment reflected the difficult path Woods had to negotiate to return to the level of elite golf required to play on the PGA Tour.
“I need to prove to myself that I am good enough,” he said of this effort. Referring to the PGA Tour pros, Woods joked: “I would play with any of these guys, but the courses are longer than the chip-and-putt courses. I won’t be playing par-3 course at Augusta to win the Masters. You need a bigger game than that.”
But speaking of how the muscles and nerves in his right leg need to continue to be rehabilitated, Woods was still optimistic that over time he could improve his game enough to play the occasional touring event again.
“In order to step up a few tournaments a year, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t do that and feel ready,” he said. “I’ve come out of long layoffs and I’ve won or come close to winning. I know the recipe.”
He cautioned, though, that he’s nowhere near that golf level yet.
“I have a long way to go to get to this point,” Woods said. “I haven’t decided if I want to get to this point.”
Roughly midway through the press conference, Woods was asked if he would like to play at next year’s British Open, on the event’s 150th anniversary. The birthplace of golf, St. It will be held in Andrews.
“My favorite golf course in the world, St. I would love to play in Andrews and be a two-time Open champion there.”
But Woods’ next sentence was perhaps the most telling. He turned the issue on whether he could attend the pre-competition ceremonial dinner for past British Open champions.
“You know, it’s nice to even be a part of the champions dinner,” he said. “These dinners are priceless. It’s an honor to be part of a room like this.”