On Monday, Tiger Woods sat down for an interview for the first time since a car crash in February left him with debilitating injuries to his left leg and either in a hospital bed or in a wheelchair for several months thereafter.
of himself swinging a club on a driving range, and of course the “what does this mean for Augusta??” think-pieces rained down for the next few days. However, Tiger, who said there was a “damn near” 50-50 chance he was going to lose his leg after the crash, revealed in his Monday chat with Golf Digest that it means very little for Augusta and that expectations should almost certainly be lower than they currently are as it relates to the rest of his career.
“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,” Woods told Digest. “Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that.”
“I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life,” he added. “After my back fusion, I had to climb Mt. Everest one more time. I had to do it, and I did [with the 2019 Masters win]. This time around, I don’t think I’ll have the body to climb Mt. Everest and that’s OK. 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.”
Woods, who also reminded everyone of all the surgeries on his back (he had one of those earlier this year as well), was almost melancholy with some of his quotes. Not in a “you should feel sorry for me” kind of way, but more so in a “I’m just happy to be alive after what happened in February” kind of way. Some of his quotes were almost hauntingly beautiful. He said that while he was laid up and even during his time in a wheelchair, he would just stare out the window and, like anyone addicted to the game, ache to connect just one wedge with a single golf ball.
“… I love to go outside and just be outside,” he said. “Sometimes I just crutch and lay on the grass for an hour because I want to be outside. Missing the contact of a golf ball hit properly is one of the better feelings.”
“It’s a tough road,” he added. “But I’m just happy to be able to go out there and watch Charlie play, or go in the backyard and have an hour or two by myself with no one talking, no music, no nothing. I just hear the birds chirping. That part I’ve sorely missed.”
All of this is fascinating. Woods’ expectations of himself have always been almost comically high. Remember going into the 2008 U.S. Open when he had a broken leg and torn ACL? A few days before that Woods — knowing all of this — said, “I’m good to go. I plan on playing competitive.”
That’s very different than what he’s saying now. Tiger knows his body, and he knows that his completely preposterous 2019 Masters victory was his last major championship win. Otherwise, he would not have said what he said in the Digest interview, and he would not have framed the future like he framed it. Many opined that Tiger may again be able to reach the apex of sport. This is not him throwing in the towel, but it’s something tantamount to it as it relates to majors. That’s OK. And even better, Tiger seems OK with it.
So while it’s aspirational that Woods is aiming to play again — perhaps at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews next summer? — and it will be a joy to watch him when we can. These quotes are as official an ending to the chase for Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championships as we may ever get. That’s not the story here, though. The truly celebratory narrative is that, after rolling his SUV so many times in Los Angeles 10 months ago, Tiger is healthy enough and able enough to chase anything at all.