LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Tiger Woods would prefer to forget an anniversary next Wednesday, but circumstances aren’t cooperating with his wish for blissful indifference.
The beaming presenter couldn’t get away from that horrific milestone as he addressed the inevitable questions at Riviera Country Club on Wednesday.
Woods’ SUV courtesy car careened through a neighborhood sign welcoming people to Rolling Hills Estates – an upscale neighborhood about an hour south of Riviera on a bad L.A. traffic day – and tumbled into a field on Feb. 23, 2021, just two days after completing the last of his hosting duties at the Genesis Invitational. Woods pushes past the obvious whenever possible since the visuals are still vivid.
“My foot was screwed up there about a year ago,” he shrugged, “so the walking portion is still something I’m working on, working on strength and development in that.”
Tiger’s approach to moving forward is “a little twisted up.” It makes perfect psychological sense given the alternative which is replaying the horrendous single-vehicle crash that might have terminated his playing career on the PGA Tour if not his life.
Woods was transferred to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center after the accident, where a rod was placed to stabilize his tibia and femur bones, and a “combination of screws and pins” were utilized to treat injuries to the foot and ankle bones. Those details, which were shared via his social media accounts, spoke loudly for a man who had made a career out of not saying much.
Although this isn’t the first time Woods has returned to Los Angeles since undergoing numerous operations to save his right leg, donning the host hat at Riviera was certainly met with some trepidation.
Tiger has had a difficult year.
In December, he made his comeback at the Hero World Challenge, surprising the golf world when he was sighted striking balls on the practice range. A few weeks later, he finished second at the PNC Championship with his son, Charlie.
For the first time in a year, there was reason to be cheerful, but Tiger cautioned against looking too far ahead.
On Wednesday, it was the same story.
Woods played host, shaking hands, smiling for photos, and generally embracing a ceremonial role that he had previously shied away from. He would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever
“Will I return?” Yes. Will I be able to play a full schedule if I return? He questioned and said, “No.” “That is never going to happen again.” I can play a few events here and there, but it will never happen on a full-time basis.”
Woods’ improvement has been sluggish. Too sluggish. When asked about his improvement and capacity to practice, he portrayed a less positive picture than his performance at the PNC in December.
“In terms of a short game, absolutely, I can. No, I haven’t played a long game since it requires more loading and torquing of the leg, and as I previously stated, walking is something I’m still working on,” he said. “I’ve still got a long way to go.” My leg wasn’t in the best of shape there around a year ago, and I’ve had to go through a lot of different operations and scenarios.”
One of those “scenarios” is whether or not he will return to the Tour. The PNC was proof to Tiger that he wasn’t ready, as encouraging as it was for the wider public. He is still not prepared.
The story has always been determined by Woods’ health for the better part of his career, but this most recent illness, with all of its horrific moments, is a whole different issue. Tiger must physically walk before he can run in this situation.
Tiger was asked about the potential of competing in the Par 3 Contest during the Masters in April during a particularly telling exchange on Wednesday. While channeling his inner Allen Iverson, he recoiled.
“I’m talking about golfing.” He explained, “That’s a practice round, that’s a pro-am day, or if it’s a major, that’s a practice round day, it’s 12 rounds.” “It’s the competitive nature of the sport, and how much it drains you intellectually, physically, and emotionally.” I haven’t made any preparations for any of that. I’m capable of going for a walk. Is it likely that I’ll be sore? Yes, but I’m capable of doing it.”
The focus has switched from winning majors to making improvements, which is understandable. To pass the time between rehabilitation treatments and meetings with members of his foundation, he now reads Dean Koontz novels instead of “reps,” his secret word for the effort he did away from tournaments to win 82 Tour titles and 15 major championships.
“Like I said earlier, I wish I could spend more time on the range digging it out of the dirt.” “However, that isn’t realistic at this time,” he remarked.
Woods also admitted that even if he is able to return to his former form, he would still have back and neck ailments, which have made the last few years of his career a constant battle with the surgeon’s scalpel.
On Wednesday, he mentioned the accident from last year three times, but just in passing. Even after a year, he’d like to forget about it, but at Riviera, that was difficult.
Woods, on the other hand, didn’t need the media’s predictable inquiries to remind him of that moment when everything went black. Whatever direction Tiger’s career takes from here, he knows it will be forever changed by that twisting road outside Rolling Hills Estate.