Tiger Woods has conceded he will “never feel great again” as his body deals with the toll of several knee and back operations that have plagued him over recent years.
In a revealing interview with former R&A chief executive Peter Dawson in Dubai, Woods accepted there has been a “changing of the guard” at the top of the world game, although he remains hopeful of being able to continue to compete for titles – including majors.
Woods underwent his third back surgery in September 2015 and did not return to competitive golf until December, while his first start of 2017 resulted in him missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“I feel good, but not great. Granted, I don’t think I’ll ever feel great because it’s three back surgeries, four knee operations,” Woods said. “I am always going to be a little bit sore, it’s just the way it is. But as long as I can function and function at a good enough level then I’m fine with that.”
Woods again admitted he was concerned throughout his rehabilitation last year that he would not be able to return to competition, having previously stated he would retire if he was forced to undergo any further surgery on his ailing body.
Woods admitted there were times in his recovery from his latest back surgery when he thought his career was over
“It was more than brutal,” he added. “There were times when I physically didn’t know if I could get out of bed. And there were times I needed help just to get out of bed. It was one of the hardest things to wrap my head around, but I had a lot of great people around me to help me and keep my spirits up.
“There have been plenty of times when I thought I would never play the game (again) at elite level. You put in the leg work, got to get in the gym, got to hit balls. You’ve got to refine your game and not make dumb mistakes out there on the golf course.
Woods is determined to complete in the Masters in April. He partnered Rory McIlroy in the final round in 2015
“In order to do that you’ve got to play a lot and I couldn’t play. Playing once every three or four weeks is not going to cut it and there were a lot of times where I didn’t think I was going to make it back.”
Woods is scheduled to play in next week’s Genesis Open at Riviera before heading to Florida for the Honda Classic, but his main goal is to be able to compete for a fifth Green Jacket and a 15th major title at the Masters in early April.
Woods has not won since lifting the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title in August 2013
But while he acknowledges that the competition is now greater than ever, his winning mentality remains unchanged for every tournament he enters.
He said: “The whole plan was to get my body, mind and spirit ready for that first full week in April. You know, I’ve done it four times and I’d love to do it a fifth.
“But this is the changing of the guard. All these guys can move it. You can get away with hitting the ball off-centre now, but you couldn’t get away with mis-hitting a golf ball before. It wasn’t important to hit the ball hard, it was more important to hit the ball flush, but now these kids tee it up and just go after it.
“My generation is getting older, but if I’m teeing up the goal’s to win it. That doesn’t change if I’m injured, coming off an injury, playing well or I’m playing poorly. If I’m in the event, it’s to win the event.
“I know I’ve accomplished some pretty neat things over the course of my career and I hope that I can continue.”