A 15th major – and first for 11 years – was secured at Augusta in an emotional return to golf’s premier winner’s circle after several back surgeries had put the 43-year-old’s career in doubt.
But, while Woods is back on the trail of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, he was keen to stress he has not given any thought to re-establishing the grip he held over the game for a decade.
“Whether I’m dominant or not going forward, that remains to be seen,” he told a press conference ahead of this week’s US PGA Championship at Bethpage. “What I know is I need to give myself the best chance to win the events that I play in, and sometimes that can be taking a little bit more breaks here and there and making sure that I am ready to go and being able to give it my best at those events.”
Woods is still managing the physical demands top-level golf places on his body and for that reason he has not competed since winning his fifth green jacket a month ago. He has taken advice from former Denver Broncos two-time Super Bowl-winning quarter-back Peyton Manning, whose career was almost ended after undergoing four operations on his neck.
“The only other time where I’ve taken four weeks off prior to major championships is going from the British Open to the PGA,” added Woods. “I wanted to play at Quail Hollow [a fortnight ago] but to be honest with you, I wasn’t ready yet to start the grind of practising and preparing and logging all those hours again.
“Coming here is a different story. I was able to log in the hours, put in the time and feel rested and ready. The body doesn’t respond like it used to, doesn’t bounce back quite as well, so I’ve got to be aware of that. I had to do more work on managing my game, my body, understanding it, what I can and cannot do. And more than anything, trying to figure out how to be explosive day in and day out. I don’t load the body like I used to and be as explosive for a three or four-hour period on the range. Those days are gone.”
Victory at Augusta threw Woods into early contention for United States Olympics qualification. While his restricted workload is likely to count against him, the former world No 1 said he would be honoured to feature in Japan next year.
“Would I like to play in the Olympics? Yes, I’ve never played in the Olympics, and I’m sure that I won’t have many more opportunities going forward at 43 years old now to play in many Olympics,” he said.
“That would be a first for me and something that I would certainly welcome if I was part of the team. Getting there and making the team is going to be the tough part. How many events do I play, do I add a couple more to get in?
“I just know that if I play well in the big events like I did this year, it will take care of itself.”
Woods refused to comment on a wrongful death lawsuit which has been filed against him, girlfriend Erica Herman and his Florida restaurant after former employee Nicholas Immesberger was killed in a car crash.
“Well, we’re all very sad that Nick passed away. It was a terrible night, a terrible ending, and we feel bad for him and his entire family. It’s very sad,” said Woods.
The tournament suffered its second withdrawal as – after Justin Thomas pulled out with a wrist injury on Monday – a back problem forced Vijay Singh to be replaced by 25-year-old JT Poston.