BETHESDA, Md. — Tiger Woods put three balls in the water trying to pull off a 102-yard shot at Congressional Country Club on Monday.
As he hit those shots in the space of a minute or as he was talking to local media after the exhibition, Woods may well have been wondering to himself if it was all worth it, the open-ended rehab effort to recover from two back surgeries in the last nine months and get back to the PGA Tour.
In a Q-and-A session with assembled reporters, Woods said he didn’t know when he would return to competitive golf, saying it could be “by next week or that’s a year from now.” Woods maintained he is trying to build strength, become “more pliable” and re-develop not only the ability to play and practice in the way he would like but also to recover and do it again the next day.
The 14-time major winner’s patience with the process — a word he bludgeoned the meaning out of in his career — may be wearing thin. He won’t even play a full 18-hole round.
“I just don’t have the patience,” he said, speaking to the Washington Post.
Woods isn’t willing to play a round on friendly, private turf at Medalist Golf Club near his home in Florida. Would the thrill of competing — and, if Monday is an indicator, we use that term loosely — inspire him to at least complete a round? It sure doesn’t sound that way.
The Post’s Barry Svrluga asked Woods if he could see himself someday soon away from competition, having a ceremonial role akin to what Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer do at their tournaments.
“Mmmmm-hmmmm,” he said to the Post. “Yep.”
Woods sounded all too ready to be praised in retirement instead of scrutinized in the field.
It seems like Woods is waffling between having the determination to fight back at 40 years old from three back surgeries in a 20-month stretch and the reality that he’ll never be able to regain the form and relative health that allowed him to dominate the game. It probably didn’t help seeing mentee Jason Day dominate the field by four shots at The Players last weekend. Then again, the slew of random PGA Tour winners this year might indicate to Woods that there is still room for him to win.
Woods hasn’t settled on an answer yet, and he’s seemingly buying time to recover to the best semblance of health he can muster.
“Ask me that question later this year,” Woods said. “I’ll have a different answer.”
The only different answer could be that he doesn’t want to be ceremonial, that he wants to compete and that he’s not ready for his rocking chair and cane quite yet. However, he’s had a glimpse of the good life that is no longer stressing over every shot, every word and every move. He’s seen what it’s like to seclude himself away from the public spotlight and not have helicopters hovering over his house. After 25 years in the spotlight, it has to feel refreshing. Like splashing around in the water.