Former world No 1 Tiger Woods insists “with all my heart” he does not want his career to be over, but admits he is reconciled to the possibility.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the Hero World Challenge, the 18-man tournament hosted by his foundation, Woods said he did not know when he would be able to play again after a third back operation in the space of 19 months in October.
And the 39-year-old has now expanded on his fears for the future in a wide-ranging interview in Time magazine, insisting he will not undergo more surgery and that being able to actively participate in the lives of his two children – daughter Sam, eight, and Charlie, six – is more important than golf.
“I don’t want it to happen. Without a doubt I do not. With all my heart, I do not want to stop playing golf,” Woods said. “But the flip side is, my kids’ lives are much more important to me.
“Now, if I can do both, that is an ideal world. It’s a win-win. If I can only do one, it wouldn’t be golf. It would be my kids. That’s still a win-win.”
Asked if he was now less “uptight” about facing retirement, Woods added: “Put it this way. It’s not what I want to have happen, and it’s not what I’m planning on having happen. But if it does, it does. I’ve reconciled myself to it.
“It’s more important for me to be with my kids. That’s more important than golf. I’ve come to realise that now. To watch my kids and play sports and to grow up and participate, and even teach them how to become better, oh my God, it gives me so much joy. I can’t imagine not being able to do that as I get older.
“That to me is special. Now I know what my dad felt like when we’d go out there and play nine holes in the dark.”
Woods won the last of his 14 major titles in 2008 and is currently ranked 400th in the world, but insists he can compete at the highest level once more despite turning 40 on 30 December.
“I have to get healthy in order to do it, though,” added Woods, who has already been named a vice-captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be 100 per cent healthy, but as close as you can to that point, that would be nice.
“As long as I don’t have the pain, then I don’t think there would be an issue. I will probably play through a little bit of pain; as you get older, you have more aches and pains. But I don’t need another surgery, period. Let’s just not go down that road ever again. No more surgeries. Seven’s enough. Four knees, three backs, that’s enough.”
Off the course, Woods said his relationship with his ex-wife Elin Nordegren is now “fantastic” following their divorce in 2010 after revelations about his infidelities.
He added: “I’ve taken the initiative with the kids and told them up front, ‘Guys, the reason why we’re not in the same house, why we don’t live under the same roof, Mommy and Daddy, is because Daddy made some mistakes’.
“I just want them to understand before they get to internet age and they log on to something or have their friends tell them something. I want it to come from me so that when they come of age, I’ll just tell them the real story.”