"I can hit the ball just fine... now walking is the hard part" - Tiger Woods
"72 holes is a long road. It's going to be a tough challenge, and a challenge that I'm up for."
The Tuesday before the 2022 Masters tournament, and all eyes were on Tiger Woods as he headed into the media tent for a sit-down with hundreds of eager golf writers and reporters.
Ever since he flew into Augusta, Georgia on a private jet, with son Charlie, friend Justin Thomas and a small clutch of physios, assistants and personal trainers, all the talk was, 'Will Tiger Woods play the Masters?'
In February 2021, Woods was involved in a single vehicular accident, in Los Angeles, that saw his SUV leave the road and flip. Woods received multiple fractures to his leg and there were fears that he may never walk again. Less than 14 months on, the 15-time major winner announced he intended to play at Augusta National, and that he further intended to win.
Woods sat with the media for just under half an hour and opened up about a number of subjects, sporting, physical and personal. Rather than pick and choose, and thanks to the folks at ASAP Sports, here is the full Tiger Woods Q&A. Enjoy!
Q. Hi, Tiger. Are you surprised at all where you are right now physically? I think a lot of people are surprised that you're here and giving it a try. How about you?
TIGER WOODS: I've worked hard. My team has been unbelievable. I've been lucky to have great surgeons and great personal trainers [PTs] and physios that have worked on me virtually every day. We've worked hard to get to this point, to get to this opportunity to walk the grounds, test it out, and see if I can do this.
It's been a tough, tough year and a lot of stuff that I had to deal with that I don't wish on anyone, but here we are, Masters week. Being able to play and practice... for me, more importantly, just to say thank you to all the guys that have texted me, FaceTimed me, and called me and given me all their support, to see them in person and to say thank you has meant a lot.
Q. Tiger, when will you decide whether you can play and what determines that?
TIGER WOODS: Well, as of right now, I feel like I am going to play, as of right now. I'm going to play nine more holes tomorrow. My recovery has been good. I've been very excited about how I've recovered each and every day, and that's been the challenge. That's why I came up here and tested it out for 27 holes because we play the par-3 course. Charlie couldn't help himself. I was able to play 27 holes that day and at home testing it.
But it's the recovery. How am I going to get all the swelling out and recover for the next day. My team has been fantastic and worked very hard. So we've got another day of nine more holes and then come game time.
Q. How much physical pain do you have to endure playing golf?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, there is. There is each and every day. Obviously given what I've gone through with my back and obviously with my right leg. Yeah, there is each and every day.
Q. How much does that take away from your ability to play, or have you just mentally overcome it or have to overcome it every time you play?
TIGER WOODS: It's been one of those things where I've had to endure pain before. This is different obviously. This is a lot more traumatic, what has transpired to my leg. We've had to put a lot of work. As I said, I'm very thankful to my surgeons and my PTs and physios that have worked on me and have given me this opportunity to play golf.
Q. Tiger, just go back to Sunday, 2019 for a minute. You've got 12 right behind you, made an incredible par there. It started to rain a little bit. You go to 13 tee. Your foot, it looked like you were trying to hit a cut shot, I'm not sure. Your foot slipped a little bit, and then your ball winds up in the middle of the fairway. I wonder if you ever got to see what the ball actually did?
TIGER WOODS: No, I didn't. Jeff sets it up every year, and he moves that tee over maybe another step. There's nowhere else to go. So everyone who has played there has teed off virtually from the same spot. It's like digging into a batter's box. And it's sandy there. There's really very little light that gets back in that area. So the grass is never as pristine as it is anywhere else on the golf course, and we're all hitting from the same spot.
It's not uncommon to see guys slip there, and I did. I slipped, and I hit it off the toe and hit a toe draw right around the corner.
Q. Draw? It didn't go over the trees?
TIGER WOODS: No, I had a toe draw.
Q. How agonising has it been just making the decision for you? Just talking about just the decision-making process.
TIGER WOODS: It's just a matter of what my body's able to do the next day and the recovery. That's the hard part. Yes, we push it and try and recover the best we possibly can that night and see how it is the next morning. Then all the activations and going through that whole process again, and you warm it up, and then you warm it back down, or test it out, and then you've got to cool it back down. Then you've got to do that day in and day out.
It gets agonising and teasing because of simple things that I would normally just go do that would take now a couple hours here and a couple hours there to prep and then wind down. So activity time to do what I want to do, it adds more time on both sides of it pre and post.
So that has been... it's not like something I haven't done, but the times have gotten longer on both sides.
Q. Tiger, you've said countless times throughout your career that you don't enter a golf tournament unless you think you can win it. So the question is simple. Do you think you can win the Masters this week?
TIGER WOODS: I do.
Q. And what have you seen in your preparation that leads you to believe that?
TIGER WOODS: I can hit it just fine. I don't have any qualms about what I can do physically from a golf standpoint. It's now walking is the hard part. This is normally not an easy walk to begin with. Now given the conditions that my leg is in, it gets even more difficult.
You know, 72 holes is a long road. It's going to be a tough challenge, and a challenge that I'm up for.
Q. Tiger, just on that topic, what part of the golf course is most difficult in terms of walking? Do you worry about slippage? Just also your assessment in the changes in the golf course.
TIGER WOODS: I don't worry about slipping. I've got metals in, so I don't have to worry about that. Even with the rain, it doesn't really concern me.
Some of the changes are... some of them more drastic than others. Others are very subtle. Resurfacing on 3, but they've resurfaced every green since I've been here.
What they did on 11 is interesting, just from the standpoint that we're further back, and then we thought the Larry Mize shot is gone, now it's really gone with them raising the green up even more on the right-hand side, and we're further back so we're more prone to hit the ball over there anyways. So it's a harder and more difficult pitch.
Other than that, the softening of 13. I understand it, trying to add a couple new pins, which they tend to do here. Over the years I've never seen them take away pins. They always added to areas in which they could grow more pins and more hole locations options for the committee to give us as a challenge. But I've never seen them take away pins. So 13 kind of fits into what their philosophy has been here.
Q. From that day early last year to this day, and this of all weeks, when you reflect on all you've been through, on all you've overcome, what words do you choose today to now reflect on these 14 months?
TIGER WOODS: Thankful. Yeah, very, very thankful. Thankful for just everyone's support, everyone who's been involved in my process of the work that I've put in each and every day, the people I work with, my whole team. And just as I was alluding to, all the support from the players out here.
We're a big fraternity. The amount of texts and FaceTimes and calls I've gotten over the past year have meant a lot. To see some of the guys at home, whether I've been out at Medalist, out there playing, to see them again, or to see them yesterday in person and say thanks. I saw a few of them at the Hall of Fame induction.
I'm sure as the week goes on I'll see more of them. So it's been great. Tonight is the night of all nights to see all the guys again and listen to all the chiding and the stuff that I can't ever repeat here and we don't ever repeat, but the fact of what we're able to say to each other is just awesome.
Q. If someone had told you in the first few days or weeks after your accident that you would be able to compete in this Masters with the expectation of winning it, what would you have said or thought?
TIGER WOODS: Well, at that time I was still in a hospital bed, and I was out for the next three months. I never left that hospital bed even to see my living room for three months. So that was a tough road. To finally get out of that where I wasn't in a wheelchair or crutches and walking and still had more surgeries ahead of me, to say that I was going to be here playing and talking to you guys again, it would have been very unlikely.
Q. Tiger, what do the shoes that you're wearing now give you that the shoes that you were wearing before don't?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I have very limited mobility now. Just with the rods and plates and screws that are in my leg, I needed something different, something that allowed me to be more stable. That's what I've gone to.
Nike's been fantastic over the years of providing me with equipment and work, and we have worked, we've been working on trying to find something to allow me to do this and swing again. We're still going to continue doing it, and hopefully we'll have something soon.
Q. Tiger, you spoke in the Bahamas in November about being at peace with what the future held because you came back, you won here, you scaled that mountain. What's been the main motivation to do that again, to put yourself through it all again?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I love competing, and I feel like if I can still compete at the highest level, I'm going to, and if I feel like I can still win, I'm going to play. But if I feel like I can't, then you won't see me out here. You guys know me better than that.
As Dee asked earlier, I don't show up to an event unless I think I can win it. So that's the attitude I've had. There will be a day when it won't happen, and I'll know when that is, but physically the challenge this week is I don't have to worry about the ball striking or the game of golf, it's actually just the hills out here. That's going to be the challenge, and it's going to be a challenge of a major marathon.
Q. Are there any particular weather conditions that would make it more difficult for you to decide to play?
TIGER WOODS: Oh, kind of just in general with my body, anytime it's cold, it doesn't feel very good. I think anyone who's in this room who's older than me can probably attest to that!
Q. I just want to follow up on this notion of your rehab process. If you hadn't been able to go, would you be satisfied with your career here and your career in general? And how much of that idea, I've still got work to do here, was fuelling the rehab process?
TIGER WOODS: No, I feel like I could... if everything went well... my surgeons gave me a chance, and then my PTs and with my surgeons, they all said that I could do this again. Now, it's up to me to endure the pain and all that, but I felt like I could still do this. I don't know how many more years I can do this.
I was very fortunate to have come back at the end of '17 when I did because I didn't know if I could still do it again at that time, but again, my surgeons gave me an opportunity and my PTs did the same. This is kind of the same scenario but a little bit more severe than it was back then.
Q. But if you couldn't have, would you have been satisfied to say...
TIGER WOODS: Yes, I would have. I think 82 (career titles) is a pretty good number, and 15 (majors) is not too bad either.
Q. Tiger, when you were here last week, would that have been your first time back since the 2020 Masters?
TIGER WOODS: Yes, that was. It was, yes.
Q. So given all you've been through, was it at all emotional coming here even on a practice day? And how much did having Charlie play with you add to the whole experience?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it meant a lot to both of us. He had a chance to play right before the '20 Masters, and he's grown a lot since then, become a lot better player. So it was fun to see the changes in him, and for us as a family to go out here and have Robbie out here and J.T., who's like my younger brother and Charlie's older brother, for us to come out here and just play together, we just had a blast.
Couldn't ask for a better day temperature-wise. It was just a perfect day. It was fun for me as a parent to see him enjoy it. And then just trying to remind him, these putts break a little more than they do back home. Florida greens are not quite like Augusta.
So a couple of the putts, it was pretty funny, he says, Just outside left? I said, No, it's more like three feet outside left.
So we had a great time. Like I said, it was a blast. For me to have that opportunity again, as Ian was asking earlier whether or not a year ago would I have said yes to that, it was a totally different scenario.
Q. Would it be easier for you to go out early Thursday and later on Friday than vice versa in terms of recovery? Secondly, you've been used to adulation throughout your career, and understandably so. Have you ever felt the sense of warmth and reverence you got on that practice round yesterday? Because it seemed to be remarkable the outpouring of warmth in your direction.
TIGER WOODS: As I said earlier, the last time I'd had patrons out here was on that Sunday when I won, and it felt a little bit like that. Not quite as frenzied as that was. That was a little bit different. That was on a Sunday of a championship Sunday.
But yesterday was incredible. Everyone loves Freddie (Couples). That's why they all came out!
Q. Tiger, what do the doctors tell you about moving forward? Is this as good as you're going to feel, or will it get better?
TIGER WOODS: My movement probably will not get much better. Will I feel better? Yes, I will. I'm going to get stronger, and the whole limb will get stronger. But as far as movement, probably not much more. I'm so limited with the hardware in there, I won't get much more.
Q. Tiger, when you came back from the spinal fusion, you were asked and you would respond about Ben Hogan and the severity of what he went through after his crash. Are you drawing any inspiration now from his story given that, like you, his problem really wasn't ball striking but just surviving the walk?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, what he went through pre... obviously, he didn't have the technology that we have now, but the amount of hot tubs that he would have to take pre-round, post-round, in the middle of the night, just to be able to get up and swing a club the next day, I certainly appreciate that.
The treatments have gotten so much better, and I'm very thankful for that because, if the treatments hadn't gotten any... if I had to go through with my accident, given what had happened to me, during his era, I wouldn't be playing this week, that's for sure.
Q. Tiger, given your leg, what are the more troublesome lies for you? Are they uphill, downhill, or side hill?
TIGER WOODS: All (Laughter).
Q. Are there certain parts of some fairways that you might try to avoid that you maybe wouldn't have thought about a few years ago?
TIGER WOODS: No, if I'm in a fairway, it's all good. The only flat spots out here are the 18 tee boxes. Other than that, there's nothing flat about this place. If I have to worry about it being in 14 fairways, I'll take that any day.
Q. I know you're here feeling you can win, but given the challenges you have with your body and the competitive arena and now these new ones and the challenges you have overcome, how do you define a successful week here at the Masters?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that the fact that I was able to get myself here to this point is a success, and now that I am playing, now that everything is focused on how do I get myself into the position where I'm on that back nine on Sunday with a chance? Just like I did a few years ago.
Q. Two real quick if you don't mind. Do you have a personal tradition unlike any other here? And if this place were flat, would your decision be a lot easier?
TIGER WOODS: Any traditions? I don't know how to answer that one. I've been coming here since '95. As far as a flat golf course, if it was back home at Medalist, it would have been a helluva lot easier, yes.
Q. Billy Horschel talked about saying you wanted to walk away. Getting here and getting yourself to this position was all about walking away on your own terms. Has that been a bit of motivation for you to compete and possibly win at Augusta?
TIGER WOODS: It has. When I decide to hang it up when I feel like I can't win anymore, then that will be it. But I feel like I can still do it, and I feel like I still have the hands to do it, the body's moving good enough. I've been in worse situations and played and won tournaments. Now, I haven't been in situations like this where I've had to walk and endure what I'm going to try and endure, that's going to be different. It's a different challenge.
But my back surgeries that I've had before and the stuff I had to play through, even going back to the U.S. Open when my leg was a little bit busted, those are all times that I can draw upon where I was successful, how I've learned to block things out and focus on what I need to focus on. That's certainly going to be the challenge this week.
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