By Andrew Both
LA JOLLA, California (Reuters) – A relaxed and seemingly content Tiger Woods gave his body a thumbs up on Wednesday and said he has not “felt this good in years” on the eve of his official PGA Tour comeback.
Woods beamed his trademark smile multiple times as he spoke to the media for 23 minutes at Torrey Pines, a day before the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open, a tournament he almost owns with seven victories.
He had just played a pre-tournament pro-am. He began like the Tiger of old, with a birdie on the first hole, and finished the same way, with an eagle and birdie and the last two, for a final score of two under.
He addressed in detail questions about his swing and also spoke at length about the thought process that went into the apparently successful spinal fusion he underwent last April after three failed microdiscectomies.
As usual, he said little about his personal life, other than to say his two children were well. He did not address last year’s arrest after he was found asleep at the wheel of his car with multiple prescription drugs in his system.
But when it came to his health in general and golf in particular, the 42-year-old could hardly contain his enthusiasm at being pain-free after years of searing pain in his back and legs.
“My quality of life is infinitely better than it was last year at this point,” he said. “I have no more pain in my back.
“It feels good not to have a burning sensation going down my leg into my foot, or collapse when I’m walking, things of that nature.
“It’s been so bad for so long, but turning it around and having my back fused, I haven’t felt this good in years, so I’m excited about it.”
Woods has played just one tournament since his spinal fusion, the unofficial Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December.
Of all Woods’ victories, perhaps his greatest came here at the 2008 U.S. Open. He won despite having, in his own words, “no ACL” (anterior cruciate ligament) and a “broken leg” (two stress fractures in his lower left leg).
But that was 10 years ago, and he has not won a major championship since. He tees off this week with different expectations.
“My expectations have tempered a little bit because I haven’t played,” he said. “I just want to start playing and getting into a rhythm of playing a schedule again.
“I haven’t done that in such a long time, so I don’t know what to expect. I’m going to grind, give it everything I possibly have.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both)