Woods back on PGA Tour but only as tournament host

LOS ANGELES (AP) — From a clubhouse balcony, Tiger Woods could see the Riviera in all its glory Wednesday under blue skies, a sliver of the Pacific Ocean visible above the treetops and below him a course deemed as good as any on the PGA Tour.

He expects the course to be firm and fast, with a plan for the greens to get progressively more difficult. And then he broke off with a realization that Woods eventually came to terms with.

“Well,” he said with a smile, “I can’t tell you the plan because I don’t play.”

He is the host of the Genesis Invitational tournament, nothing more. And that’s all he will be until his legs are sufficiently healed from a harrowing car accident a year ago about 20 miles from Riviera.

At best, Woods thinks he could only play a few events each year. But that starts with being able to compete while walking. The most frustrating thing is not knowing when it will be.

He said his golf has been limited since playing with his son two months ago in the PNC Championship, where he could ride in a cart.

“My leg wasn’t in a great position about a year ago and I’ve been through a lot of different surgeries and a lot of different scenarios,” Woods said Wednesday. “It was difficult, but I got there. I have come this far and I still have a long way to go. Every day is a fight and I look forward to this fight”

It was the Tuesday after the Genesis Invitational last year when Woods was driving down a winding road in suburban Los Angeles. His SUV was going about 85 mph when it crossed the median and tumbled down a hill.

Bones were shattered in his right leg and foot, injuries so severe that Woods said doctors considered amputation at one point.

“I think at this point we’re all just happy that he’s here and moving well, and being able to be a dad, to just be the host of this tournament and to do all that stuff,” Rory McIlroy said.

Woods inspired hope he could return when he played for the PNC championship with his son. He and Charlie finished one shot behind. Sloppy in performance, Woods was in a cart on a flat course in Florida.

“Being a weekend warrior is easy. It’s not that hard,” Woods said. “Hit your ball, jump in a cart, roll, barely get out of the cart, grab your club and hit the next one. And probably the longest walk you have is from the cart to the green and back. But walking on a golf course? It’s a totally different matter.

He also mentioned how difficult it was to come off after his four back surgeries, a remarkable recovery made complete when he won the 2019 Masters for his 15th major. He was recovering from a fifth back operation when he had a car accident.

We must not forget that Woods is 46 years old. The older he gets, the longer it takes him to heal.

“I have a long way to go,” he said, repeating a theme he mentioned in the Bahamas and Florida, the other two times he’s been in the public eye since the crash.

Augusta National is the toughest march of the four majors, and it would seem unlikely that Woods will play. He didn’t seem interested in playing the Par 3 tournament (a short walk, but still a walk), although he was probably at the Masters for the champion’s dinner.

For now, he’s spending time reading (mostly Dean Koontz), playing video games, and spending more time — he’s got plenty of it — on his foundation.

He made it clear in December that he would never play a full schedule again. That hasn’t changed. Now it’s a question of when he can play at all. Woods didn’t elaborate on the shape of his right leg except to smile and say, “My right leg doesn’t look like my left, put it that way.”

Whenever he returns, no matter how long, the anticipation will always be high. Adam Scott thought back to the crash news on February 23 last year and remembers the shocking reports.

“You couldn’t help but really think, ‘Will he ever play again or walk?’ We just didn’t really know,” Scott said. “So it was great to see him play at the end of last year and pretty good, to be fair, for a guy who had to recover from a such a serious accident. It’s on a positive note.

“Hopefully he can play a little more,” Scott said. “It will be a sad day whenever the day comes when we don’t see him play at all, but it looks like he’s hinted that he’s going to play here and there. I think we should all take advantage of it.


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