This week, Tiger Woods sat down for his first interview in nearly two months.
Sporting a white hat, black dri-fit shirt and quarantine beard, Woods chatted for nearly 20 minutes with GolfTV’s Henni Zuel and touched on a variety of topics, from his health to his mindset to his evening putting contests with son Charlie.
Here are some takeaways:
• Physically, Woods said he feels a “night and day” difference from when he was last seen competitively, at the Genesis Invitational in mid-February, when he battled back stiffness and finished last among those who made the cut. After that, he skipped the WGC-Mexico Championship and then said he wasn’t yet ready to return at either Bay Hill or The Players Championship. The season was then put on hold, for at least the next two months. Since then, Woods said he’s been able to “turn a negative into a positive” and “get my body to where I think it should be.” Medalist, his home club in South Florida, remains open for now, despite a statewide stay-at-home order, and he’s been able to “hit balls and play a little bit.” He would have been healthy and ready to go for the Masters.
• The hardest part, Woods said, has been playing and practicing without a purpose, with no end date in sight. The global outlook (and Tour schedule) changes seemingly every day. Last Sunday, Woods said, he spoke with Justin Thomas and relayed that he was feeling “energetic” and “wired” but also “irritable.” He didn’t know why ... until he realized that it was the Sunday before the Masters, and he was supposed to be flying up to Augusta to hand out trophies to participants at the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. After 25 years, he said, “subconsciously I knew I was supposed to get up there. My body was ready to go.” It’s difficult to “unwire those circuits,” he said.
• Though he wasn’t asked directly his thoughts on a November Masters, Woods conceded he’s already looking ahead to what could be a hectic late summer and fall – assuming the Tour is able to resume play at some point in the next few months. Woods said he’ll need to sit down with his team to determine the best practice/rest routine and tournament schedule in order to be ready to peak at the biggest events. Also, with the pandemic continuing to evolve, he preached patience: “All the things that are up in the air, we don’t exactly know when they’re going to be playing these events yet. Let’s take a beat on it.”
• Yes, Woods hosted his own Champions Dinner at his house earlier this week, with the same menu he had planned: steak and chicken fajitas, sashimi, cupcakes and milkshakes. They had a good time, especially with the night ending in a food fight, the cupcake icing flying everywhere. “I did take the jacket off,” Woods said.
• To keep the competitive juices flowing, Tiger and Charlie have been playing “quite a bit” together at Medalist. And each night for the past few months, they’ve had putting contests in the backyard, with the winner getting to keep the green jacket in his closet. Mostly, the jacket has remained in Tiger’s master bedroom, but there have been a few occasions when Charlie nipped him. “The fact that he has been able to earn it off of me, there’s no wins that are given in this family,” Tiger said. “It’s been fun to see him tease me about beating me. He said it’s where it belongs.”
• Though he’s not training for the Tour de France, Tiger has taken up cycling again. Especially now, with less to do during the day, he finds himself biking around his neighborhood, working up a sweat, feeling the warm breeze on his face. “I’ve gotten a little more pliable,” he said.
• At home, Woods’ daughter Sam and girlfriend Erica have been grinding on a few puzzles – first a 2,000-piece project, now a 3,000-piece. Partially colorblind, Tiger said he isn’t much help and often gets shooed away from the table. “Once we’re done with the borders, I’m useless,” he said.
• When asked if he has any words of wisdom to get through this crisis, Woods invoked his late father, Earl, who served two tours in Vietnam as a Green Beret. You know that expression “just take it day by day”? That’s hard to do during these virus days, when seconds can feel like hours and days can feel like months. And so, echoing his father, Tiger has broken down that mantra into even smaller pieces: One meal to the next.
“Just try to break it into pieces to accomplish things,” he said. Woods, of course, has plenty of experience in this department, after battling his share of injuries and enduring a few lengthy layoffs. “You have to slow things down and do things at a different pace and look at things from a different perspective and lens to accomplish goals,” he said.
To watch the interview in its entirety, click here.