Tiger: ‘optimistic,” but golfing future uncertain

3:44 PM ET

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Although he expressed optimism about a return to competitive golf, Tiger Woods also acknowledged it is possible he might not play again.

“I don’t know what my future holds for me,” Woods said during a news conference at Liberty National in advance of the Presidents Cup, where he is serving as an assistant to U.S. captain Steve Stricker.

In his first public comments since April fusion surgery — his fourth back surgery — Woods got the majority of questions in a news conference with assistant captains for both the U.S. and International teams.

Last week, Woods released a lengthy statement on his website in which he said he had begun hitting 60-yard shots but was not yet cleared to hit full shots due to the limitations on twisting recommended by his doctors.

October is the the six-month mark, and Woods said that is roughly the point at which a good bit of the healing should be done.

“Overall, I’m very optimistic how I’m progressing,” the 14-time major champion said. “Like I said, the pain’s gone, but I don’t know what my golfing body is going to be like because I haven’t hit a golf shot yet.

“So that’s going to take time to figure that out and figure out what my capabilities are going forward. And there’s no rush.”

Earlier, Woods was on the driving range watching U.S. players warm up, giving some advice and good-natured ribbing. He acknowledged that the pain in his lower back had become so acute at times he had trouble sleeping, driving and standing for long periods of time.

Woods did not discuss the May arrest for driving under the influence, and his subsequent acknowledgement that he entered a treatment facility.

But it’s clear he has been working out, and Woods said there is no pain when he chips and putts at home.

Woods, who has missed all of the major championships during the past two years, made an aborted return to competitive golf late last year and early in 2017, playing three tournaments. He withdrew after a first-round 77 at the Dubai Desert Classic on Feb. 2, where he failed to make a single birdie.

Although he said at the time that the score was not due to any back issues, Woods acknowledged Wednesday that he was in considerable pain that day and continued to be, as he hoped to make a return at the Masters before ultimately deciding on surgery.

“I’ve been out of the game for a while,” he said. “First things first: Get my health organized, make sure the pain goes way. Then, basically, just as I said, 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.”

Asked why he wants to return given all he’s accomplished, Woods said, “I think it’s fun. I’ve been competing in golf tournaments since I was, what, 4 years old. From pitch, putt and drive to playing major championships, it’s always been fun for me.”

For now, Woods is relegated to being a spectator, but an involved one, as an assistant captain. Woods still holds the record for most matches won in Presidents Cup history, with 24, one ahead of Phil Mickelson, who could pass him this week. Woods was also an assistant last year for the Americans during the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National.

“I think it’s great,” said Jim Furyk, an assistant for Stricker and the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. “I’ve always said that a lot of the guys we have on our team, the younger players on both sides, they grew up when he was our dominant player, the face of the PGA Tour, and they grew up idolizing him.

“Having him here in the team room and here with those guys is invaluable. It’s a two-way street. It’s great for Tiger. As much as he’s been injured, it’s probably wonderful for him to be out here and the camaraderie, and he provides just so much experience and knowledge.”


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