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As if the anticipation was not building steadily enough for next year’s 150th Open Championship at the Home of Golf, then Tiger Woods has added a few more stacks of hype by saying that he intends to do all he can to recover from his leg injuries to be at St Andrews “my favourite course in the world”.
In his first press conference since his life-threatening car crash in February, Woods, 45, refused to give any details about the mysterious accident, insisting “all those answers have been answered in the investigation”.
“Yeah, people are going to poke and prod and want to know more about my business, I understand that,” he said “They can poke and prod at me all they want, just stay away from my family.
Yet if he was typically guarded in his responses to questions that still could do with explanations - ie ‘how did he lose control?’ ” - he was rather more animated about discussing his chances of being in that Claret Jug field next July.
“Yeah, I would love to play at St. Andrews, there's no doubt about it. It's my favourite golf course in the world. To be a two-time Open champion there, just being a part of the champions dinner is really neat,” he said. “It's just an honour to be a part of a room like that. Yes, I would love to be able to play that Open Championship, there's no doubt about it. Physically, hopefully I can. I've got to get there first.”
On Monday, Woods acknowledged in an interview that he would “never play full-time again” and he reiterated that admission. He also referred to Ben Hogan again, but this time was more pointed in his comparison. In 1953, Hogan won three majors despite almost being killed in his own car crash a few years before.
“I don't foresee this leg ever being what it used to be, hence I'll never have the back what it used to be, and the clock's ticking,” he said. “All that combined means that a full schedule and a full practice schedule and the recovery that it would take to do that, no, I don't have any desire to do that. But to ramp up for a few events a year as I alluded to yesterday as Mr. Hogan did... well he did a pretty good job of it, and there's no reason that I can't do that and feel ready.
“I've come off surgeries before, I've come off long layoffs and I've won or come close to winning before. So I know the recipe for it. I've just got to get to a point where I feel comfortable enough where I can do that again.”
Woods is the tournament promoter for the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club and his duties in the media centre lasted for more than 30 minutes. He confessed to being in pain as he sat there - “my back hurts and my leg hurts” - but Woods cast a picture of a man feeling blessed, confirming that the prospect of amputation “was on the table”.
“I'm lucky to be alive but also still have the limb,” he said. “Those are two crucial things. I'm very grateful that someone upstairs was taking care of me, that I'm able to not only be here but also to walk without a prosthesis…. It's been tough at times, yes, some dark moments, but then again, as I was making progress through it, too, I could see some light and that was giving me hope. I'm able to participate more with my kids and their activities and more just in life in general. I'm now on the positive side of it.”
He has taken the decision to return in consultation with his family, including his two children, Sam and Charlie. “Am I going to put my family through it again, am I going to put myself out there again?” he said. “I had a talk within the family, all of us sat down and I said ‘if this leg cooperates and I get to a point where I can play the Tour, is it okay with you guys if I try and do it?’ The consensus was yes.”
Woods concluded it is no certainty he will reach that point, but described himself as being “at peace” with his achievements. He pointedly spoke of the 2019 Masters as “that last major win”. But this was certainly not a goodbye or even the first strains of a protracted farewell. Woods pointed out that he hosts two events on the PGA Tour and that means that along with the limited schedule he plans to complete “I can still be a part of this Tour”.
Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, will have been mightily glad to hear so and his reaction to Woods’s reply when quizzed about the Saudi billions being dangled in front of the game’s elite and the threat of a breakaway circuit, must have bordered on the ecstatic.
“I've decided for myself that I'm supporting the PGA Tour - that's where my legacy is,” he said. “I've been fortunate enough to have won 82 events on this tour and 15 majors… so I have an allegiance to the PGA Tour.
“And I understand that some of the comparisons are very similar to when Arnold [Palmer] and Jack [Nicklaus] broke off from the PGA of America to start the Tour. I don't see it that way. I think the Tour has done a fantastic job, Jay's done an unbelievable job. I think the Tour is in great hands and prize money's going up. No, it's just not guaranteed money like most sports are. It's just like tennis, you have to go out there and earn it.”