Woods “feeling old” but raring to go

An older, more patient and more realistic Tiger Woods says he is pain-free and ready to rejoin the battle.

As the former World No 1 prepares to make his comeback from back surgery at this week’s Quicken Loans National Tournament on the PGA Tour, he seems far more pragmatic about his prospects and the hard work that lies ahead – and perhaps a touch weary as well.

“I feel old,” the 38-year-old said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The Chinese kid (Guan Tianlang) who qualified for the Masters last year (aged 14) was born after I won the tournament for the first time and that is just not cool.

“That is what is coming: the next generation are taller, bigger and more physical – these kids in college, all the long-hitters are 6ft 2ins to 6ft 4ins.

“The difference as I have aged is I can’t play the way I used to.

“I was number two in driving distance for a number of years just behind (John) Daly – things have changed dramatically.

“I have to rely on different parts of my game like strategy and course management.

“The amount of shots I have learned over the years has allowed me to be as consistent as I have been over the course of my career.

“The old adage is with age comes wisdom and I have certainly become more patient, especially having two little ones has definitely taught me a lot of patience, and it has carried on the golf course.

“I remember all the early years on tour when I would run 30 miles a week and still go play tournament golf – and I was winning but not realising how much damage I was doing.

“Now I have to pick my spots when I can and cannot push. When I was younger I didn’t need treatment. That is no longer the case.

“But I’m pain-free – it’s been a very long time, probably a good two years since I’ve felt this way.”

While he is ahead of schedule with his rehabilitation, Woods admits he would not have played at this week’s PGA Tour event had it not benefited the Tiger Woods Foundation.

He only intended to return at the British Open but is relieved to be free of pain – a welcome change following a number of physical complaints that have plagued him in recent years, his back injury this year merely being the most recent.

“Pre-procedure, right before I went in, I wasn’t able to function, I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t do any normal activities,” he said.

“When I blew up my knee and even when I had Achilles problems I was still able to do things.

“Anyone who has had any kind of nerve impingement knows it is no joke but that part was relieved as soon as I got out of surgery.

“I felt I had my life back. I was able to do things, normal activities I took for granted.”

Woods also described his rehabilitation process, which involved putting before progressing to chipping, then full swings right up to hitting a driver before finally getting back out on course for practice.

“I wanted to knock off some rush on the range so I didn’t go out there and embarrass myself,” Woods said.

“I broke 10 for nine the first time – just like it was when I was three so I’m sneaking up on it.”

Woods admits it isn’t getting any easier for him to win, but mentally he’s as committed to that goal as he ever was.

“It has been interesting road. This has been quite a tedious little process but one where I got to a point where I can play competitive golf again,” he said.

“Expectations don’t change. That (to win) is the ultimate goal it is just that it is going to be harder this time.

“I’ve not had the amount of prep I would like but I am good enough to play and I am going to give it a go.”