'I’m on the positive side': Tiger Woods talks rehab, but not wreck, in first public appearance
Tiger Woods faced the media and the world on Tuesday, his first public appearance since his catastrophic February car wreck, and he remained as inspiring — and maddening — as ever.
Walking without a visible limp but still in pain, Woods, bulky-armed and dressed in a charcoal and black camo Nike shirt, ran through a greatest hits of his news conference performances: documenting his intensive recovery and rehab, pontificating on his charity and the tournament he’s hosting this week, deflecting with feather-light jokes, fondly musing about his children … and stonewalling when the questioning zeroed in on an uncomfortable topic.
Woods suffered multiple injuries, including a shattered ankle and a compound fracture, when the car he was driving in Los Angeles early in the morning of Feb. 23 left the road and flipped. Police said the sole cause of the accident was excessive speed — Woods was traveling 83 mph in a 45-mph zone — and did not indicate that any other factor was involved.
Asked directly on Tuesday what he remembered of the crash, Woods — who up to that point in the conference had been open and engaging on the subjects of his charity and his rehab — slammed the door shut.
"That's all been answered, it's in the police report,” he said. “You can read about it there."
It was a clipped and insufficient answer for a legitimate question. Woods was traveling at nearly twice the speed limit in a residential area, and there was no evidence of braking before Woods left the road and flipped several times. A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy said shortly after the wreck that Woods was “very fortunate ... to come out of this alive,” and Woods, by his own admission, nearly lost his leg to amputation.
“People poke and prod and want to know more about my business. I understand that,” Woods said, before warning inquirers to leave his family alone. As has been the case ever since his Thanksgiving 2009 accident — 12 years ago almost to the day — Woods and his team once again made the decision to lock down and dismiss all inquiries, allowing speculation to run wild.
Woods wasn’t pressed on the specifics of the wreck, what might have led to the crash, what he was doing prior to the wreck, whether he had considered the what-ifs of Feb. 23, how he’s changed his life and outlook since then, or any other element of what will turn out to be one of the most important days in the life of one of America’s most important sports figures. (Not that he would have answered if he had been asked.) Instead, Woods redirected the conversation forward, focusing on what he’s done since the wreck to get himself literally back on his feet, and what he might do going forward to get back onto a golf course.
A full-time return to golf is out of the question, Woods said, acknowledging what has been obvious since initial reports of the extent of his injuries came to light. Instead, Woods indicated that he could follow in the footsteps of Ben Hogan, who suffered a similarly devastating wreck in 1949, midway through his career. Hogan won 11 times after his wreck; Woods, coincidentally enough, has won 11 times since his 2009 scandal erupted.
"To ramp up for a few events a year ... there’s no reason I can’t do that and feel ready,” Woods said. “I’ve come off long layoffs and I’ve won or come close to winning before. I know the recipe for it. I just have to get to the point where I feel comfortable enough where I can do it again."
Woods sidestepped any attempt to pin him down for a return, whether for the Par-3 tournament at Augusta or the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews. He noted that he’s recovered from major, crippling injury before — Woods has had 10 surgeries, after all — but the fact that he referred to his 2019 Masters victory as “that last major” seemed telling about how much more he’s willing to sacrifice to chase major titles.
"As far as playing at the Tour level, I don't know when that's going to happen,” Woods said. “I'm able to participate in the sport of golf. To what level, I do not know yet."
Golf remains in Tiger’s future, to one degree or another. But as always, Woods will leave everyone wanting more, both on and off the course.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.