Tiger Woods credits long walks on the beach as offering a litmus test on the health of his injured right leg and ankle in the lead-up to playing this week’s Genesis Invitational at famed Riviera Country Club.
It was a bit of a surprise when Tiger announced last Friday that he’d be playing this week in addition to hosting this PGA Tour-designated event.
Woods, who suffered comminuted open fractures to both the tibia and the fibula in his right leg during a single car accident almost two years ago, has not played in a PGA Tour event since missing the cut at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews last July. After making the cut impressively at the 2022 Masters and PGA Championship, Woods limped visibly in Scotland while shooting 78-75 on the Old Course to miss the weekend. It was his third and final official tournament of 2022.
The 47-year-old said intense rehabilitation work in the seven months since St. Andrews had improved his leg, and his overall game, to the point of believing he can be competitive at Riviera this week.
“I can still hit shots, but it’s the walking endurance that’s hard,” Woods said Tuesday at Riviera Country Club, where he’s also doubling as tournament host. “That’s something that we’ve had to work on; walking [long] distances on the beach to basically stress it out but also to be able to recover by the next day and see how it is, inflammation-wise and then keep practising. I may have overdone it a couple of times here or there, but here I am.”
The limp Woods carried last year appeared to have subsided as he strode into the makeshift media centre Tuesday inside Riviera’s grand clubhouse. The press conference he conducted was not unlike his many other sessions with reporters: He provided an update on an existing injury and then offered thoughtful answers on a wide range of topics, from LIV Golf to his TGR Foundation which benefits from the Genesis Invitational and even and NBA and NFL players.
One question that did provide a sobering answer on his chances of competing at Riviera this week was whether Woods had walked 72 holes over the course of four days yet this year, to which the California native replied, “No.”
“As far as the recovery, it’s more my ankle, whether I can recover from day to day,” he said. “The leg is better than it was last year, but it’s my ankle. It’s gotten so much better in the last couple of months, and I’m excited to go out there and compete and play with these guys.
Woods has been practising in earnest at a facility he built in his backyard in Jupiter, Fla. He has also been walking during rounds of golf at the nearby Medalist Golf Club.
“I can do the Ranger Rick thing, hit golf balls and do all that stuff, [but] it’s a matter of whether I have endurance in my leg, and we’ve been pushing it pretty good and able to recovery each and every day, which is great,” Woods said. “I hit balls basically almost every day. I’ve got a neat little practice facility in my backyard so I can do a little bit of short game work there. I’ve gone out to Medalist and hit balls, and I’ve walked the golf course when I’ve played. I’ll hop in a cart when I get a little tired. And it’s gone from a few holes to nine holes to 18 holes and then back home [for more] practice. So it’s just a build-up, and it’s built up fantastic to get to this point.”
Woods then confirmed what he has said previously: His schedule will be limited to major championships and any regular PGA Tour events will be a bonus.
“I’m not going to be playing a full schedule so I’ve got to be able to pick and choose my events,” he said. “How many events I’m going to play, as I alluded to last year, is going to be probably the majors and maybe a couple more. Would I like to play more? Yes. Will [the ankle] allow me to? I don’t know. I have to be realistic about that. After this event, we’ll analyze it and see what we need to do to get ready for Augusta.”
Woods will tee off at 12:04 p.m. local time [3:04 p.m. ET] on Thursday in a megastar grouping with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. Woods plays regularly with the pair in Florida, but now it’s time to test himself against the duo and 127 other players at Riviera.
The 82-time PGA Tour winner said he would not tee up if he didn’t think a record 83rd victory wasn’t possible.
“I am very rusty, but I’ve come off a rusty situation before and I’ve done well,” he said. “I’ve had to utilize a lot of those tactics in practice in the build-up, plus also I know this golf course. I know I haven’t had a lot of success on this golf course, but I knew what to practice for and what shots to hit at home getting ready.
“I would not have put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys and win the event. That’s my mentality.”