A smiling Tiger Woods spoke with the media Wednesday, bearing no resemblance to the man who was forced by back spasms to withdraw from the Honda Classic on Sunday.
Woods has been doing exactly what he said he’d need to do — getting “treatment every day until Thursday to try to calm it down” — when he walked off the course with his daughter, Sam, with five holes left to play. Now, he says he’s ready to play in the WGC-Cadillac Championship starting Thursday.
“I was telling Sam when I was walking off that, ‘Hey, daddy can handle pain.’ But I just couldn’t move out there,” Woods said. “I got to a point where I couldn’t twist. So trying to explain to your 6-year-old daughter why you quit is certainly a very interesting concept and topic.”
Woods addressed three main questions swirling about him: his condition, whether he’s played enough as the Masters fast approaches and whether he has focused too much on the sport’s four major tournaments.
His back problems, he said, have bothered him on and off since college. It was visible last August when Woods, 38, fell to the ground after taking a swing at the Barclays. “I think we have to take a more global look at it, absolutely, because it comes and goes,” Woods said of his issues. “We’ve got to make sure that we do preventative things to make sure that it doesn’t happen and adjust certain things, whether it’s swing, lifting [weights], whatever it may be, you have to make certain adjustments. We’ve done that throughout my entire career and this is no different.”
He’s running short of practice time, with the Masters starting April 10. He took six weeks off after 2013 ended and has struggled in the three events he’s played in this year. All told, he’s had only 10 rounds of competitive golf so far.
“I want to be strong and fit and healthy to be able to play that golf course and give it my best,” he said. “So looking at scheduling and practice sessions and training and all that stuff, we have taken a really good look at it and really tried to come up with a plan so that I can compete and play and be ready and try and win my fifth [green] jacket.”
Woods has not won a green jacket since 2005 and his hold on the sport’s No. 1 ranking is growing tenuous. Ryan Lavner of GolfChannel.com writes that “Adam Scott likely would move to world No. 1 for the first time in his career if he wins this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship and Woods finishes outside the top 5-7, according to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robison.” Woods has relentlessly focused on the four majors and his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record.
“They’re big events. They’re the biggest events we have,” he told ESPN. “The Olympics come around every four years. We have four Olympics a year. Those are the ones you’re basically judged by, in our sport. Same thing [as] tennis. People have no idea how many tournaments Jimmy Connors has won. He’s won the most of all time — over 100 events. But they know many [Grand] Slams he has. Or they know how many Slams it took for Fed [Roger Federer] to pass Pete [Sampras]. But no one can name the [number of] titles they won.”