Tiger Gives First Interview, Shares Expectations For Return

Leave it to Tiger Woods to scoop his own news conference.

With speculation and rumors running rampant about whether Woods will make an appearance or speak publicly at this week’s Hero World Challenge, which benefits his TGR Foundation, mere minutes after the PGA Tour confirmed that Woods would meet with the media, Woods and his content partners dropped a nearly 40-minute interview with the 15-time major champion.

Shot in his golf studio, which was made famous during the lockdown of 2020, Woods and his dogs strutted past a line of putters and wedges and through his indoor simulator hitting bay to chat with GolfTV / Golf Digest’s Henni Koyack.

The interview began with Tiger’s well-being, his rehab and the various hurdles he’s needed to clear to be able to simply walk relatively normally again.

“There was a point in time when, I wouldn’t say it was 50/50, but it was damn near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg,” Woods said. “This is where dad’s teaching came into play being in the military and being (special forces). Any SF operator can attest to this—you don’t know how long a firefight is gonna take. It could last five seconds or five hours and some could go on for days at a time. With that in mind, you don’t know when the end is so that’s the hard part. How do you get through that?

“One of my dad’s ways of getting through that was live meal-to-meal. … I just shortened up the windows of, Oh, this is gonna be nine months of hell, to It’s just two or three hours. If I can repeat these two to three hours at a time. Next thing you know it adds up, it accumulates into weeks months and to a point where here I am talking to you and walking into a room.”

Once that was covered, the burning questions came from Koyack about Woods’ plans to return to the course.

“I think something that is realistic is playing the tour one day — never full time, ever again — but pick and choose, just like Mr. Hogan did. Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that,” Woods said. “You practice around that, and you gear yourself up for that. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s my reality. And I understand it, and I accept it.

“I have so far to go … I’m not even at the halfway point. I have so much more muscle development and nerve development that I have to do in my leg. At the same time, as you know, I’ve had five back operations. So I’m having to deal with that. So as the leg gets stronger, sometimes the back may act up. … It’s a tough road. But I’m just happy to be able to go out there and watch Charlie play, or go in the backyard and have an hour or two by myself with no one talking, no music, no nothing. I just hear the birds chirping. That part I’ve sorely missed.”

The Hogan model that Woods alluded to hoping to emulate is a significantly scaled back from a normal PGA Tour season. Following Hogan’s 1949 car accident, 20-plus event seasons were out of the question. Beginning in 1950 and for the next two decades, Hogan never teed it up more than six times in a season, mostly playing major championships and other events he had special ties to.

As ESPN’s Michael Collins pointed out in the video above, the Hogan schedule of a few majors and a few meaningful Tour stops seems to be a realistic expectation for Woods.

The next question — can he win? — elicited a more measured response from Woods. 

“I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life. After my back fusion, I had to climb Mt. Everest one more time. I had to do it, and I did,” Woods said, referencing his victory at the 2019 Masters. “This time around, I don’t think I’ll have the body to climb Mt. Everest, and that’s OK. I can still participate in the game of golf. I can still, if my leg gets OK, I can still click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation of me.”

Woods is in the Bahamas this week for the Hero World Challenge and expected to meet with the media ahead of action kicking off Thursday.