In an interview with Golf Digest that was published Monday, Tiger Woods said that while he could see himself playing in occasional PGA Tour events, his career as a full-time pro golfer is over after the severe leg injuries he suffered in a high-speed car crash in February.
“I think something that is realistic is playing the Tour one day — never full time, ever again — but pick and choose, just like Mr. [Ben] Hogan did. Pick and choose a few events a year, and you play around that,” Woods said, citing the golf legend who recovered from serious injuries suffered in a 1949 car crash to win six more major titles while playing a limited schedule. “You practice around that, and you gear yourself up for that. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s my reality. And I understand it, and I accept it.”
At a news conference Tuesday ahead of this week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, Woods said he could not put a timetable on his possible return to competitive golf.
“I’ll put it to you this way: As far as playing at the Tour level, I don’t know when that will happen,” said Woods, who said he had pain in his back and his leg just sitting in a chair during the news conference. “I’m able to participate in the sport of golf. To what level, I do not know yet."
Still, Woods seemed optimistic Tuesday that his return could indeed happen, though he doesn’t “foresee this leg being ever what it used to be.”
“To ramp up for a few tournaments a year, there’s no reason I can’t do that and feel ready,” he said. "I’ve come off long layoffs and I’ve won or come close to winning. I know the recipe. I just have to get to the point where I feel comfortable that I can do it again.”
The Golf Digest interview was released eight days after Woods tweeted a video of himself taking practice swings on the range, accompanied by a message that read “Making progress.” The video fueled speculation that the 15-time major winner would be returning to the Tour soon, but Woods told Golf Digest that he has “so far to go. … I’m not even at the halfway point.”
“I have so much more muscle development and nerve development that I have to do in my leg,” he said. “At the same time, as you know, I’ve had five back operations. So I’m having to deal with that. So as the leg gets stronger, sometimes the back may act up. … It’s a tough road.”
Woods said he has lengthened his putter so he can bend over less while on the greens and has only recently returned to full-swing practice, and only on a limited basis.
Woods suffered comminuted open fractures to the tibia and fibula in his right leg during the car crash in Southern California, which means both bones broke into at least three pieces and broke through the skin. He also suffered foot and ankle injuries, and at the news conference Tuesday, he said amputation of the leg was “on the table.”
“There was a point in time when, I wouldn’t say it was 50/50, but it was damn near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg,” he said in the Golf Digest interview.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said in April that Woods crashed because of excessive speed, though they ruled out impaired driving and declined to charge him with an infraction. Woods was driving between 84 and 87 mph in a 45-mph zone when his Genesis SUV smashed into and hopped over a median, according to investigators who cited evidence recovered from a data recorder. Woods’s car was traveling 75 mph when it hit a tree, pirouetted and rolled into a ditch in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
He declined to discuss the crash at Tuesday’s news conference, saying all the details were covered in the police report.
Woods previously had bounced back from five back surgeries, including spinal-fusion surgery in 2017, and five procedures on his left leg. His last appearance at a pro golf event was his tie for 38th at the Masters in November 2020.
“I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life,” he told Golf Digest. “After my back fusion, I had to climb Mount Everest one more time. I had to do it, and I did. This time around, I don’t think I’ll have the body to climb Mount Everest and that’s okay. I can still participate in the game of golf. I can still, if my leg gets okay, I can still click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation of me.”