Tiger Woods talks injury, recovery, returning to golf

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Tiger Woods is speaking for the first time since his catastrophic February car accident, and he’s delivering healthy doses of both good and bad news.

First, the good: Woods is walking again, and his quality of life is returning. He believes he’ll be able to play golf again one day, although not quite as rapidly as he’d hoped.

Now, the bad: Woods concedes that his days as a full-time golfer are over. “I think something that is realistic is playing the tour one day — never full time, ever again — but pick and choose, just like Mr. [Ben] Hogan did. Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that,” Woods said in an interview with Golf Digest. “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.”

Woods was injured in February when the SUV he was driving in Los Angeles left the road and flipped; Woods suffered multiple substantial leg injuries, including a shattered ankle and a compound fracture. He has spent months out of the public eye rehabbing and working, with only occasional reports from fellow players and, more recently, social media dispatches to give updates on his condition.

The injuries were so extensive that Woods said he even faced the possibility of amputation. Once it became clear that his legs could be saved, Woods got to work with his hands, catching balls thrown by his girlfriend and another friend to improve his reaction time. Woods rehabilitated at home in Florida, progressing from a hospital bed to a wheelchair to crutches to a walking boot to now, when he can walk largely without issue. 

With no timetable for recovery, Woods fell back on special forces-style training he received from his father. “One of my dad’s ways of getting through that was live meal-to-meal,” he said. “I just shortened up the windows of, Oh this is gonna be nine months of hell, to It’s just two or three hours. If I can repeat these two to three hours at a time. Next thing you know it adds up, it accumulates into weeks, months, and to a point where here I am talking to you and walking into a room.”

But walking into a room is a far cry from walking a golf course, and Woods concedes that he’s nowhere near ready to return to competitive golf. This will come as a disappointment to whatever bettors thought Woods would be ready to win the 2022 Masters, but he believes that he’ll be able to function on a golf course again one day. 

“I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life,” Woods said. “After my back fusion, I had to climb Mt. Everest one more time. I had to do it, and I did.” Woods won the Masters in 2019 in one of the greatest career comebacks in sports history. But he now believes it’s unlikely he’ll put on another green jacket. 

“This time around, I don’t think I’ll have the body to climb Mt. Everest, and that’s OK,” he said. “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.”

Tiger Woods at Augusta in 2020. (Augusta National via Getty Images)

Tiger Woods at Augusta in 2020. (Augusta National via Getty Images)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at [email protected]

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