A year ago, Tiger Woods nearly died when he crashed his SUV at a high rate of speed into a wooded area on a windy Los Angeles road.
On Wednesday, 51 weeks to the day after the grisly crash and on the eve of the Genesis Invitational, the 46-year-old Woods spoke of his slow comeback to playing competitively again.
In doing so, he tapped the brakes — something police reports revealed he never did before his crash at more than 80 mph last Feb. 23 — on the speed of his comeback.
“Will I come back? Yes, ” Woods said from Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where the tournament that benefits his foundation will be held this week. “Will I come back and play a full schedule? No. I can play certain events here and there, but on a full-time level, no, that will never happen again.”
When might we see Woods play tournament golf again?
“I wish I could tell you when I’m playing again,” Woods said. “I want to know, but I don’t. My golf activity has been very limited. I can chip and putt really well and hit short irons very well, but I haven’t done any long stuff seriously.
“I’m still working on the walking part,” he went on. “My foot was a little messed up there about a year ago, so the walking part is something that I’m still working on, working on strength and development in that. It takes time. What’s frustrating is it’s not at my time table. I want to be at a certain place, but I’m not.”
Woods, suffered open fractures in the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula in his right leg, and damage to his foot in the one-car crash after he drove his SUV across two oncoming lanes, struck a curb, uprooted a tree and ended up flipped and in the woods.
In a press conference at the Hero World Challenge in late November in the Bahamas, Woods revealed doctors initially thought his leg would have to be amputated.
“It’s altered,” Woods said Wednesday. “My right leg does not look like my left leg, let’s put it that way.”
Woods said, other than chipping and putting, he has been unable to practice as vigorously as he’d like — the weight and torque on his right leg are too much to take at the moment.
“I can walk on a treadmill all day,” Woods said. “That’s easy. That’s just straight, there’s no bumps in the road. But walking on a golf course where there’s undulations, I have a long way to go. It’s been tough, but I’ve gotten here, I’ve gotten this far and I still have a long way to go. Each and every day’s a fight, and I welcome that fight. Get up in the morning, let’s go a few more rounds.”
Woods downplayed the fact that he was able to play in the PNC Father-Son Challenge in December, a two-day event at which he and his son Charlie finished second to John Daly and his son, John II. That event is a low-stress affair, with players using carts.
“I can still play, but I’m in a cart,” Woods said. “Being a weekend warrior is easy. Hit your ball, hop in a cart, ride, barely step out of the cart, grab your club and hit the next one. But walking a golf course, that’s a totally different deal.”
Asked if he were encouraged at being able to play in the father-son event, Woods said: “Did it give me hope? Yes, it did, because I went through a very difficult year last year. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be back out on Tour any time soon. I was very limited with what I could do. Being out here on Tour you get exposed.
“There are no cards and you have to be fit enough to do this sport at a high level, you have to be able to practice at a high level to expect to come out here and win, and I have not done any of that. ”
Woods, who has won the Masters five times, didn’t rule out participating in April’s annual Par-3 Tournament played the Wednesday of Masters week at Augusta National.
“I can do that now,” he said, “but whether I do that or not, I don’t know.”
He said he has spent a lot of his time at home reading Dean Koontz books and playing video games, which has been a passion of his since he was a youth.
“I wish I could spend more time on the range,” Woods said. “But that’s not realistic at this point.”
It wasn’t lost on Woods that he was sitting in front of reporters a mere year after potentially losing his right leg, and maybe his life, in that crash just a few miles away from Riviera.
“I’m very lucky, very lucky,” Woods said. “To be able to have my right leg still here, it’s huge. I still have a lot of issues with it, but it’s mine and I’m very thankful for that. Thankful for all the surgeons and doctors and nurses that, for all the countless surgeries that we went through and countless rehabs and the [physical therapy] sessions are brutal, but it’s still mine, and I’m very thankful for that.”