Tiger Woods said Wednesday that he intends to play next month’s British Open despite his strained left elbow, but he stopped short of saying he would be completely healed by the time he arrives at Muirfield in hopes of breaking a five-year drought in which he hasn’t won a major championship.
“One hundred percent? Eh,” Woods said. “How about GED — good enough.”
Woods, 37, spoke at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, site of this week’s AT&T National, the PGA Tour stop that is both run by and benefits his foundation. He withdrew from the event last week because of the elbow, which had him grimacing as he hit shots from the rough during the U.S. Open earlier this month.
“I pushed it pretty good at the Open to play, and played through it,” Woods said. “Made it worse by hitting the ball out of the rough, and eventually got to the point where I wasn’t able to play here. Listening to my docs and not touching a club. We’re treating it, and eventually I’ll start the strengthening process of it, and then start hitting balls and get it up to speed for the British.”
Woods will be missing his own tournament because of injury for the third time in the last six years, a development that’s particularly painful considering he won at Congressional both last year and in 2009. He said he would be “here and there throughout the week,” and tournament officials expect him to be on hand to present the trophy to the winner Sunday evening.
Wednesday, he participated in the event’s opening ceremony, giving a brief speech on the first tee; hosted a pair of students from one of the two campuses of the Tiger Woods Learning Center in the District; and made an appearance
“This is a very important week,” Woods said. “It’s disappointing not being able to play. On top of that, I am — or, was — defending, and it looks like the golf course is in fantastic shape. It’s green, it’s lush, it’s thick. . . . It’s going to present a hell of a test for the guys, and I’ll be watching.”
Woods’s absence from competition leaves the field without its biggest draw, and it shapes the entire tournament. Now, Masters champion Adam Scott, ranked fourth in the world, is left as the marquee attraction, and the field has just three of the top-20 ranked golfers in the world.
“When he’s in an event, you know he’s there,” said Bo Van Pelt, whom Woods beat in last year’s final round.
What’s left is Congressional’s Blue Course itself, the venue that two years ago hosted its third U.S. Open. Players who work the AT&T National into their schedules tend to like more difficult courses more. Indeed, the only courses that played more strokes over par last year were the Olympic Club and Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, which hosted the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, respectively.
“I would like it to be one of the more difficult PGA Tour events, there’s no doubt,” Woods said. “This golf course lends itself to that. It has a history of that. And I think that’s how we should play it. Don’t make it where it’s something where even par or over par is going to win the tournament, but allow these guys if they play well, and they shoot an under par score, they’re going to move up.”