Tiger Woods claims he “feels fantastic” ahead of his long-awaited return to competitive golf this week.
Woods has not played competitive golf since failing to make the cut at the PGA Championship in August, following which he decided to take some time out to get his mind, body and game into better shape. That exit was only Woods’ fourth tournament since undergoing back surgery on 31 March to cure a pinched nerve.
Woods is adamant his back is now cured and is confident there will be no repetition of the injury which has led to him plummeting from world No 1 at the start of the year to 24. “It feels great, it feels fantastic,” said Woods, who finished 201st on the money list this year with “meagre” earnings of just £69,000.
“I’ve gotten stronger, more explosive, I’ve gotten faster and now I just need to hit more balls.But the body is good. I don’t have the sharp pain like I had at the beginning of the year.
“I still have some aches and pains, like anybody else my age and older. But I can play with my kids, do whatever I want. I’ve played a ton of soccer in the backyard. Am I game-ready? Probably not quite as I would like to be. I haven’t played a tournament round since August.”
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Woods heads into the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Florida tomorrow, the tournament he annually hosts which benefits his foundation, with a new coach who is in the process of changing his swing.
The 39-year-old has turned to Chris Como, to whom he refers as a “consultant”, after spending the last four years with Sean Foley. Woods insists he remains “very good friends” with Foley, but that he needed to do something different.
It was another old friend in Notah Begay who recommended Como, with Woods adding at yesterday’s press conference: “I was very surprised and excited to see how he felt my swing should look like. It was very similar to the vision I had, and that’s where we’re at right now.”
Asked for detail on the swing, Woods added with a smile: “It is new, but it is old. I say that because I haven’t done it in a very long time. We looked at a lot of video from when I was a junior, amateur, and it was interesting to see how my swing was then and how much force I could generate with a very skinny frame.
“How did I do that? How did I generate that much power? That’s what we are getting back into. As to how long the changes will take I don’t know. I am curious to find that out myself, too.”
The swing change is a result of the injuries that have taken their toll on Woods over the years. But, as he noted: “I’m older. Father Time is undefeated.
“We all eventually start losing some of the things we were able to do when we were younger. As an athlete you do notice these things and we all have to make adaptations and adjustments, and I’m no different. I’m not quite 40 – that’s not until next year – so I still have some time.”
Woods, meanwhile, has admitted surprise at the creation of a Ryder Cup task force by the PGA of America following the United States’ latest humiliating defeat by Europe this year.
As a member of the 11-man panel, Woods said: “Did I ever think we would end up in this position with a task force? No.
“Our job going forward is we only have this task force once. It’s so we have a process in place where everyone is happy with the selection of not only the players, but also the captains, assistant captains. If we do our job correctly we’re only going to have this once.”
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