As Tiger Woods tried to recover from a pair of late 2015 back surgeries, the 14-time major winner now realizes that years of playing through injuries and pain have shortened his career.
This time, the 40-year-old vows to not return to competitive golf until he is absolutely ready.
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"I am [being more patient], and I have to be with it. That wasn't always the case," Woods said Wednesday ahead of an opening ceremony at Bluejack National, the Houston-area private club whose renovation Woods designed and oversaw as his first U.S. project.
"I've played through a lot of injuries. I've played through some situations I probably shouldn't have, won some tournaments I probably shouldn't have won. But I've cost myself some other tournaments by pushing through that, and I've cost myself months and years because of it. But that's what athletes do. We play through pain, we deal with injuries. That's part of playing sports."
Perhaps the 2008 U.S. Open is the embodiment of Woods' answer. He won his 14th -- and, to date, final -- major ostensibly on one leg, playing through a stress fracture and torn ACL to beat Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff at Torrey Pines. Woods has finished in the top three of a major just twice since that San Diego-area Monday. He has more missed cuts and did-not-plays (12) than top-10 finishes (9, still a remarkable figure) since then.
And that brings us back to now. Woods was asked in different ways when he might return to competitive golf. Maybe somewhere in his mind or heart he knows, but, if he does, Woods isn't telling yet.
"When will I know? I'll let you know," Woods said. "Because of right now, I don't. But I'm in a heck of a lot better place than I was in December. That I do know."
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