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Tiger Woods on Playing the PGA Tour Again: 'Never full time, ever again ... '

In a 42-minute Zoom interview with Golf Digest and published on Monday, the 45-year-old Woods discusses the aftermath of his late February accident and the prospects of golf in the future.
Tiger Woods says he not even at the 'halfway point' in his r

Tiger Woods says he not even at the 'halfway point' in his r

While lying in a hospital bed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in late February, Tiger Woods faced what would be for nearly every person a frightening, even nauseating proposition.

“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,” Woods said Monday in an exclusive interview with Golf Digest.

However, give Woods even money or better on most anything — even a situation as serious as this — and nearly everyone who has ever bet against him wishes they hadn’t. The 45-year-old Woods is walking on his own, more than nine months after a horrific one-car crash Feb. 23 outside Los Angeles.

Woods suffered multiple compound fractures of both bones in his lower right leg, which required multiple surgeries and a rod inserted in his leg. Even after the surgeries and he was transferred to Cedars-Sinai from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center’s trauma unit, doctors explored amputation as a real possibility.

Woods even posted a short video to social media last week of him, with his right leg in a sleeve, hitting a short wedge shot. While the prospect of Woods returning to tournament golf is an exciting, hopeful thought for fans of every sport, Woods would be the first to tamp down any undue enthusiasm.

“I have so far to go … I’m not even at the halfway point,” Woods said on a nearly 42-minute Zoom interview with Golf Digest’s Henni Koyack. “I have so much more muscle development and nerve development that I have to do in my leg. 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. But I’m just happy to be able to go out there and watch Charlie play, or go in the backyard and have an hour or two by myself with no one talking, no music, no nothing. I just hear the birds chirping. That part I’ve sorely missed.”

In the days and weeks after the crash, speculation ran rampant in the media and elsewhere whether Woods would ever walk again. Or if he did, would he be able to play golf with his son, Charlie? And if he could play, could he return to the PGA Tour?

Woods has answered one of the questions and on Monday he answered the latter, saying about playing the Tour — “never full-time, ever again…. (I could) pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that. 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.

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“I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life. After my back fusion, I had to climb Mt. 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 Mt. Everest, and that’s OK. I can still participate in the game of golf. I can still, if my leg gets OK, 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.”

Even as it sounds like resignation, it’s still a wildly optimistic view. Woods spent three weeks at Cedars-Sinai, followed by three months confined to a hospital bed at his home in south Florida. Then, he graduated to a wheelchair, then to crutches, when sometimes he would drag himself to the back yard and “lay on the grass for an hour because I want to be outside.”

“I just kept looking out at my back yard, anyone who is addicted to golf, I just want to hit a golf ball, hit that chip shot, hit that putt,” he said. “And I just wasn’t able to do that.”

During the worst times, Woods said, he used his father Earl’s Special Forces training and broke down his days into compartments — “I just wanted to make it from meal-to-meal. After breakfast, I wanted to make it to lunch, then to dinner. If I can repeat these 2 to 3 hours at a time, next thing you know it adds up, it accumulates into weeks and months.”

When he was able to start putting, he took his “Old Faithful” Scotty Cameron and lengthened it to accommodate his sore back and weakened core and “my right leg trembling. It looked like the wind was blowing and there was no wind,” he said. Once he started making putts, he realized that he couldn’t bend over to get the balls out of the hole. So, he had all the holes on his putting green filled with sand.

Even now, he walks with a limp and it’s a struggle to walk either uphill or down. And when his leg becomes fatigued, “it’s time to shut it down,” he says.

“It’s been a helluva road,” Woods admits. “But I’ve made some positive strides and I’ve had some really tough days, some really hard weeks, a few setbacks. It’s not my timetable I would like to heal.” During the times he can’t do anything physical, he says he’s reading a lot, “just to occupy my mind and take it off the injury, off the pain. That’s the harder part – getting my mind off the pain cycle.”

If Woods is at the halfway point or so of his recovery and rehabilitation, you have to wonder which half will be the most difficult — physical and mentally – the half he’s passed through or the half that’s yet to come.

“There’s a lot to look forward to, a lot of hard work to be done — being patient and progressing at a pace that is aggressive but not over the top. Obviously, when I get in the gym and I get flowing and the endorphins get going, I want to go, go, go,” he said. “That’s how I’ve been able to win so many tournaments. But then again, everyone reminds me at what cost? Look at you now.

“I wish I was (X-Men’s) Wolverine; I wish I could heal quickly,” he said.

Everyone else is just hoping he heals completely.

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