Tiger Woods: “I am healthy and I’m playing well again. I am finally able to go. It hasn’t been an easy road.”December 2, 2011 – 4:30 am by Steven Cuce
It’s been 26 official events without a win for Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour. This is the same golfer that once went on one stretch of winning 7-of-11 majors. Woods, who is hosting the Chevron World Challenge this weekend in Thousand Oaks, California, shot a three-under 63 and trails first round leader, K.J. Choi, by three shots heading into Friday’s play.
In this rare interview conducted by Colin Cowherd, the man once regarded as the best golfer to ever live is truly candid regarding the slump in his golf game following the scandal that changed his life forever two years ago. Perhaps making himself a bit more publicly available and talking about his prolonged slump will help him turn things around in 2012.
Tiger Woods joined ESPN Radio on The Herd with Colin Cowherd to discuss whether he’d still rank himself the No.1 golfer in the world, if he’s still able to playing at full strength having now had four knee surgeries, playing tentative golf because of his injuries, walking off the golf course on numerous occasions the last two years feeling embarrassed about his play, having any self doubt in his playing ability, if he thinks he’ll get back to the place emotionally where he’ll be doing fist pumps out there on the golf course, what his mental state on the golf course has been like this past two years, and if he’s afraid he may not ever win another major.
Where do you rank yourself today in the world of professional golf?
“Well I think as you know that is all subjective except for us as sportsmen where it’s direct numbers. For me I know that now I am healthy and I’m playing well again that it’ll just take time, but I feel I can get myself back up in the world rankings. Unfortunately I was hurt for awhile and it fell off. All my points that came off from 2009 because of a two-year revolving scale on our world rankings it all came off this year, so I didn’t play. All those points came up, but next year I can build on that.”
Can you grip and rip it today despite four left knee surgeries and an Achilles tendon injury?
“Actually I’m hitting it further now. [Colin Cowherd: Wow] So that is exciting for me is that I am fully healthy. I’ve implemented the changes that Sean [Foley] wants me to – how Sean wants me to swing the golf club and I’ve got my speed back. That’s exciting. I certainly don’t hit the ball as far as a guy like Gary Woodland or Dustin Johnson, but I am not far behind.”
Are you tentative at all given four knee surgeries?
“No. No. That’s the beauty of it. I’m finally going now. I am finally able to go. It hasn’t been an easy road. That’s for sure. There’s a difference between obviously rehabbing and then training. I hadn’t been able to train in a long time, so it’s fun to get past that rehab stint and now I can train and that’s when I made the biggest gains in the weight room and then that’s been directly related to my performance on the golf course.”
Was there a time you ever walked off the golf course in the last two years where you were embarrassed?
“Well I certainly haven’t been happy with the way I played. There’s no doubt about that. There’s a lot of times when I hit shots that I had never hit before. That was a frustrating period to go through trying to limp through it and it was frustrating. But I’m past that now. I am fully healthy and the way I played in Australia was very exciting for me because when the wind blows like that and it’s howling consistently like when it did in Sydney and down in Melbourne and I ended up playing 9 rounds, 9 competitive rounds during that stretch. I felt like I had control of the golf ball for all those days and as a player you get exposed from the wind if you have any kind of weakness and I didn’t have any glaring weakness and as the more I played I got better. That was the fun part that when the wind blew my swing tightened up and actually got better.”
Was there ever any self doubt about your play even when you kept saying you were back over the last couple of years?
“The doubt was – it came in the fact I hadn’t produced enough good rounds at home and I would play – I’d shoot a bunch of 65′s and 66′s at home, but they weren’t quality rounds. I could score. I could still chip and putt. I could still dink around a golf course and make birdies on par-5′s at home, but it wasn’t the…I was posting good numbers, but it wasn’t as pure as I’d like to have it and I was hoping that I could take that type of scoring into a tournament, but I didn’t. The golf courses were a lot more difficult than they were at home, but lately as I have tightened it up and playing some real quality rounds at home where I’m not struggling. I am not scraping and scrounging. I feel like I shot 65 or 66 – that’s the highest score I could have shot that day. That’s very different than how it was in the past.”
When you win again will it be different this time around?
“I don’t know. Let’s get to that point first. Let’s get there and then ask me again.”
Will you get back to that emotional point again where you will pumping your first?
“Well I need to get to a point where that comes out because it usually came out down the stretch in a tournament. I haven’t played down the stretch of a tournament in awhile. I need to get there. This past – if you look at calendar year of 2011 – I only had basically two chances to win a golf tournament. I was tied for the lead at the Masters. I was on the 15th green and then at the Australian Open here – I had a shot here coming down the last few holes. Other then that just two times in year is…that to me it not very good. Next year I am excited about that. I am excited to put myself in that position. Those are just reactions that come out [pumping his fist after a win]. That’s just the moment. I can’t even explain it because a lot of times I don’t know what the hell happened and then I look at myself on TV and think it is kind of funny sometimes. I didn’t realize I did that. I remember making that putt at the U.S. Open at Torrey [Pines] to make the playoffs and I don’t remember doing any of that. It’s funny to see it on TV because I remember seeing the sky and then looking back at the hole, but I don’t remember the reaction. It was just the moment.”
How have you felt mentally on the course over the last few years?
“There were times certainly where it was tough, but that’s life. You go through periods where it is difficult at times and certainly I went through that, but physically on top of that you add the swing change and then it gets tough, but you get the whole idea to learn from the past and keep moving forward and that’s what I do from each and every round I play and that’s just like life.”
Do you ever fear you may never win a major again?
“If you would have asked me that when I was on the couch this summer in a boot and crutches I would have given you a different answer because it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but now that I am healthy and I am playing at home as many holes as I want, practicing as much as I want, putting up the numbers I want in the gym. That to me is exciting. It’s exciting to go out there now and play golf again and not have to worry about anything. If I hit this shot oh my god this could happen? I shouldn’t do this. That plays in your mind trying to hit golf shots and trying to maneuver myself around a golf course. I can just go out and play again. That’s what I did in Australia. I just went out there and just played. I played my best golf I had in years.”