The 2017 Presidents Cup "U.S. Captain and Friends" news conference Wednesday was the first time Tiger Woods was available to answer substantial questions from the media in a public setting since undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April. In fact, less than 60 days out from the event, it wasn't clear Woods, who is a vice-captain for friend Steve Stricker, would even make it to the event.
Go figure, then, that golf media would eat up this chance to ask Woods about his health, his prospects for the future and for his views on these biennial matches. More than 60 percent of the questions in the news conference with Stricker and Woods, as well fellow vice-captains Fred Couples, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk, were directed to Woods or were about Woods to others.
Ultimately, the ear-perking question-and-answer came when Woods was asked about his potential return to competitive golf. After all, in a recent blog post, Woods said he is back to hitting 60-yard pitch shots and taking on all comers in putting contests, but that he doesn't really know what's coming next in his recovery or competitive golf career.
Woods, who has a knack for saying nothing in a lot of words, said something.
“I don’t know what my future holds for me,” Woods said.
That's intentionally vague and universally true of anyone. However, what makes that statement meaningful is it is continues a 180 from the certainty he showed earlier in his career about pretty much anything. Since undergoing a handful of back surgeries dating back to March 2014, Woods has seemed progressively less sure of what's next. His December 2015 news conference at the Hero World Challenge was downright depressing, during which Woods assessed anything he did from then on in golf would be "gravy." And while, despite ups and downs, he hasn't really progressed much physically from that point, he did sound more c'est la vie on Wednesday about his next steps.
“I’ve been out of the game for a while,” Woods said. “First things first — get my health organized, make sure the pain goes way. Then, basically just keeping waiting for what my surgeon says. I’ve given you guys the updates on what I can do as I progress, and that’s all I’m doing.
“I’m still training. I’m getting stronger. But I certainly don’t have my golf muscles trained because obviously I’m not doing anything golf related.”
Tiger Woods hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 2013. He has made 20 worldwide starts since then and withdrawn four times, missing the cut six other times. Two events had no cut. He's not exactly relevant these days. In June, 10 years will have passed since he won his 14th and final major, the 2008 U.S. Open. The guy so many golf fans long for is gone.
However, the prevailing sentiment is a desire to see Woods be great one more time. For one more run. A Jack in '86 (or '98!) moment. Those moments are unpredictable and fleeting. What Woods wants and his fans should want is for him to get better physically so he can be a capable father to his growing kids, healthy enough to be a normal person and, if he so chooses, lash at the golf ball inside the ropes a few more times. If he accomplishes those three things, then those are the mashed potatoes on which the gravy might sit.