Tiger Woods is no longer using crutches, a walking boot or a razor. He hasn’t hit a full golf shot in 47 days and has no idea when he will practice, much less play in another tournament.
All he could say with certainty Tuesday was that he would not return until he was fully healthy.
2011 AT&T NATIONAL
AT&T National host venue Aronimink was the second most difficult non-major course on the 2010 PGA Tour, with a scoring average 1.21 strokes over par. Only Honda Classic host PGA National was tougher.
“Usually I set a timetable when I want to come back and play when I’ve had injuries before,” Woods said at the AT&T National, which benefits his foundation. “This one is different. I’m going to learn my lesson from what I did at The Players and apply it this time and come back when I’m 100 percent. I don’t know when that’s going to be.
“That’s kind of the frustrating thing about it right now is I don’t know.”
While he did not rule out the British Open, which starts July 14 at Royal St. George’s, he made it sound as though he would miss another major championship.
“I wouldn’t go over there just to show up,” he said. “I’d go over there to win the golf tournament, so I need to obviously get my body ready so I can practice, and eventually play.”
He’s not doing much of anything at the moment. Woods watched the U.S. Open and was amazed at how Rory McIlroy matched his record by building a six-shot lead after 36 holes, then continued to crush his competition in winning by eight shots.
With shared parenting of his two kids, he has watched more cartoons than he ever did as a child. “What’s actually really tough to watch now all the time is ‘Dora.’ That song is just brutal,” he said.
And for the first time in public, he was sporting a full beard, though nothing that compares with Lucas Glover.
Woods has not played since May 12 when he withdrew after nine holes from the Players Championship. That was his first tournament since “minor injuries” to his left knee and Achilles from an awkward stance in the pine straw in the third round at the Masters.
He said it was borderline whether he should have played at the TPC Sawgrass, a decision he now regrets. Had he skipped the Players, Woods said he would be playing now.
So what was he doing at Sawgrass?
“I’ve played in pain before and I’ve played injured, and I’ve played through it, and I’ve been very successful at it,” Woods said. “There has been a number of years where I’ve been hurt more than people could possibly understand, and I’ve played and I’ve won. I just felt that it was good enough to give it a go, and I did. And I hurt myself.”
Woods has gone through four knee surgeries since his freshman year at Stanford. He tore knee ligaments while jogging in the summer of 2007, and finished the year winning five of six tournaments, including a major. He won the U.S. Open in 2008 for his 14th major on one good leg. And after injuring his right Achilles in December 2008, he won seven times the next season.
But there was something about this injury -- perhaps the state of his game or the clock ticking on his career -- that caused him to stop being so stubborn when it comes to his health.
He said this injury wasn’t even as bad as some of the others.
“But I hurt myself again,” he said. “It’s time to actually have a different approach. It’s time.”
Woods still believes he has time on his side, especially when it comes to his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 professional majors. He remains stuck on No. 14, and he can’t get closer if he’s not playing.
“He won when he was 46, right?” said the 35-year-old Woods. “I’ve still got some time. I feel pretty confident of what my future holds and very excited about it. I’m excited about coming out here and being ready to go, instead of trying to kind of patch it, which I’ve been doing for awhile.”
Woods said he has been able to putt, and that’s about it for his golf. He said he spends every day in the gym trying to get stronger, not just work on the left knee and Achilles, but his entire body. He said there are as many as three sessions a day, although they rarely last more than an hour.
“We’re testing it every day to see what it feels like,” he said. “You try and push it as far as the leg will go, and then if it doesn’t feel any good, then you bring it back. And each day it’s gotten better. We haven’t had any setbacks, which has been good. But still, it’s not as explosive or as strong as I’d like to be.”
And that means no golf -- at least for now.
Woods is leaving that to everyone else, and there have been some special performances. Luke Donald has risen to No. 1 in the world, McIlroy is up to No. 3 while Woods has tumbled to No. 17, his lowest spot in more than 14 years.
Justin Rose, the defending champion at Aronimink, says Woods’ absence is still noticeable.
“The way he plays the game, he plays it with a lot of intensity,” Rose said. “I think people like to see him win. He seems to win in dramatic style more often than not. So that’s I think what people like to see. He puts on a good show. Everything that goes around him at a golf tournament is a little more high atmosphere, high energy.”
Assuming he misses the British Open, the next tournament Woods typically plays is the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which starts Aug. 4 and precedes the final major championship of the year. The FedExCup playoffs are after that, although only the top 125 qualify and Woods is at No. 114 -- and not moving up because he’s not playing.
Woods, however, said he would be surprised if the year ended without him playing again. This isn’t a repeat of 2008, when he missed the last six months of the year after reconstructive knee surgery. He said his knee and Achilles are getting better.
“I’d be very surprised because I’m progressing,” he said.