Tiger Woods admitted he is still a long way to returning to full PGA Tour competition, he is not as powerful, is lacking the ball speed and the result of his body being a ‘bit banged-up’ ahead of contesting this weekend’s PNC Championship.
Woods was speaking for only a second time in public and following Friday’s 18-hole pro-am on the Lakes Course at the Ritz Carlton resort in suburban Orlando.
Unlike, his 40-minute sit-down recently ahead of the Hero World Challenge, Woods spoke for just 10-minutes with the assembled media ahead of joining his son, Charlie in the clubhouse.
“Well, it’s going to be a while”, said Woods when asked of his return to full competition.
“I couldn’t walk this golf course even right now, and it’s flat. I don’t have the endurance. My leg is not quite right yet and it’s going to take time. I told you in the Bahamas, I’m a long way, way from playing tournament golf. This is hit, hop in a cart and move about my business just like I would at Medalist. Being able to play tournament golf and being able to recover, practice and train and hit balls after a round and do all of the things that I need to be at a high level, I’m a long way away from that.
Woods is returning to competition for a first time in 292 days since his near fatal car crash in suburban L.A but in playing on Friday, it was clear that there is still a lot of practice ahead before Woods is anywhere also near full PGA Tour competition level.
He said: “I’ve still got the hands. I’ve still got the feel. I’ve still got the shots but unfortunately (smiling) the feel doesn’t match-up with the speed and the shot I am seeing. That was one of the things Joe (LaCava – caddy) and I were talking about as the ball is not quite flying as far as I would like or I am used to, and also the numbers, so we were having a talk about having to make some adjustments.
“Heath-wise I’m okay. I wasn’t going to play much on the back nine and just trying to save myself, and just like last year, trying to save myself for the weekend. Plus, most of the tee shots are going to be hit by Charlie, anyway. Also, some of the professional tee markers are way back and we don’t have the advantage as last year.”
Swingwise? Woods admitted he is just not as powerful nor does he have the speed.
“I’m just not as powerful and I just don’t have the speed. It is what it is. The ball doesn’t fly as far as it used to. I just cannot get it to the right speed I am used to. The body is not what it used to be and the body’s been a bit banged-up so hopefully I will get to where the speed will start coming back up and I will start hitting the shots that I know I can see but are not just quite coming off”.
As Woods had highlighted in the Bahamas, he again was asked if he’s amazed to be back playing golf, let alone walking unaided, given the sight of his totally written-off Genesis SUV he was driving.
“Yes and no. If you would have asked me after those three months in the bed, I would be here, I would have given you a no answer”, he said.
“But there are no days off. We worked every day. Even days where I didn’t feel very good, we still worked on something. So every day, there was never a day off the entire time, other than those three months in bed, I haven’t taken a day off”.
There has been so many, including Woods’ fellow pros, amazed as Woods’ presence this week inside the ropes competing. Among those adding their support is Woods’ caddy Joe LaCava.
“I never like to use the word ‘shocked’ with him. But am I pleasantly surprised with where he’s at? Definitely”, said LaCava.
Woods and son teed-up early on Friday and despite some noticeable early limping, the 15-time major champion seemed fine aside from what he said about his swing.
Saying that, as Woods didn’t play all shots including missing a few holes over the start of the inward half but then he also had the benefit, as he will over the weekend, of being allowed to ride a motorised buggy like all competitors.
Woods was seen collecting his ball from the hole and was spotted also on a couple of occasions bending over to fetch the ball of an amateur partner.
At just 12-years of age, Charlie Woods is mirroring all of his soon-to-be 46-year-old father’s mannerisms including playing a wedge shot to just one inch at the 12th hole and then, in holding the wedge in his right hand, letting his right arm swing back-and-forth as dad has done all his golfing life.
Charlie’s shot earned a ‘well done’ pat on the backside with his dad’s putter.
Charlie Woods with a beauty to an INCH. ? pic.twitter.com/NGL0ByIx5f
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 17, 2021
There was a light-hearted moment on the opening tee when Bubba Watson teed-up in the group aheads of Woods, and with Watson saying to the crowd: “Lets’ be honest, you’re all here just to see Matt Kuchar”.
A laughing Woods responded: “Are you going to cut it or are you going to cut it?”
There was also the sight on the course of Woods chatting with good friend and TV commentator, Notah Begay who had also been in attendance last fortnight at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Team Woods wound-up the outing with Charlie again stealing the limelight holing a long birdie putt from behind the flag at the last and much to the delight of dad looking on.
Now 292-days since the near-tragic events early on a suburban L.A road and Woods is returning to competition.
Tee times (Irish time)
4.06pm Padraig & Paddy Harrington
5.18pm Tiger & Charlie Woods