Tiger not giving up on goals

Robert Lusetich offers his take on Tiger's future.
Robert Lusetich offers his take on Tiger's future.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.


Don’t expect to see Tiger Woods back playing golf anytime soon.

Maybe not till next month, maybe not till next year.

And that’s a good thing.

Because the truth is that we haven’t seen Tiger Woods — the old Tiger Woods, the legendary Tiger Woods — in a very long time.

In his place has come a shadow of the champion he once was: a man nursing wounds to his soul, his game and now his body, attempting to do amid the tabloid headlines what he routinely did in his trouble-free youth and win tournaments with nothing more than a C game.

There was a clarity to Woods as he faced the media at the AT&T National on Tuesday that suggests he’s accepted that those days are over; that he’s going to have to be at his best if he hopes to reclaim his throne.

“I'm excited about coming out here and being ready to go instead of trying to kind of patch it, which I've been for a while,” he admitted.

Woods didn’t rule out playing in the British Open, but let’s just say there’s more chance of Sarah Palin winning Jeopardy! than there is of Woods winning his 15th major at Royal St. Georges.

“I wouldn't go over there just to show up,” he admitted.

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“I'd go over there to win the golf tournament, so I need to obviously get my body ready.”

The year’s third major starts in just 16 days. Woods, who last week was wearing a protective walking boot and using crutches, revealed Tuesday that he’s only just started putting again.

He’s a creature of habit, so he’s using the rehab schedule he devised after his knee reconstruction in 2008 to map his progress.

“It's going to be putting, then chipping, then pitching, eventually getting to wedges,” he said.

“We had a deal in '08 where . . . each week I was able to progress either two or three clubs in the bag.

“It doesn't mean I'm going to do that now, because it's also dependent on how it all feels on a daily basis.”

He’ll know when he’ll be ready because he’ll have “free reign, just go play, play as many holes as you want; go do it.”

“I need to get to that point again,” he said.

And that point could be a few weeks away, giving him a chance of playing in next month’s Bridgestone Invitational in Akron and the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, or it could be a few months away, wiping out the rest of the season.

Woods injured his knee and Achilles while playing a shot from pine straw at the Masters. He tried to come back at The Players Championship but was forced to limp out of the tournament after just nine holes.

He now realizes it was a mistake to have come back too early.

Indeed, there are those within his camp who believe that had Woods not tried to play at TPC Sawgrass, he’d have easily recovered in time to have played the US Open.

“It was a big event, and on top of that it was a borderline call, 50/50,” Woods said of his decision to go to The Players.

“I've played in pain before and I've played injured, and I've played through it, and I've been very successful at it.

“There's been a number of years where I've been hurt more than people could possibly understand, and I've played and I've won.

“I just felt that it was good enough to give it a go, and I did, and I hurt myself.

“I’m going to learn my lesson now.”

Woods said he deliberately hadn’t set a timetable for his return. He knows he pushes himself too hard to make deadlines his body can’t keep.

“I’m just playing it by ear right now,” he said.

“That's hard for me. I've always been very goal-oriented about when I'm going to play, how I'm going to peak, how I'm going to get ready, how my practice schedule is going to be, and I'm not doing that this time.”

“I’m just going to learn my lesson . . . and come back when I’m 100 percent ready.”
It’s the only way if he wants to make a serious run at the record that matters most to him: Jack’s 18 majors.

Typically of Woods, who’s an incurable optimist, he doesn’t feel, at 35, like that record is slipping away.

“Absolutely not. (Jack) won when he was 46, right? I've still got some time,” he said.

“And on top of that, we're about the same pace, I believe, years on tour and majors won. So I feel pretty confident of what my future holds and very excited about it.”

Woods is always difficult to read because he plays his cards close to his chest, but don’t think he hasn’t heard all the talk about the start of the Rory McIlroy era.

Although he likes the young Northern Irishman and was complimentary about his dominance at the US Open, it’s clear Woods doesn’t think any baton has been passed.

“I’m 35, I’m not 65,” he said.

“Golf is unlike any other sport.

“We can play for a very long time. And given that we have the health to do it, guys have succeeded for a very long time.

“That's what I would like to do is play this game for as long as I want to.

“I feel like my best years are still ahead of me.”

Whether that’s true or not, he seems to believe it.

What is undoubtedly true, however, is that he needs his body to cooperate.

“My motivation right now is to get back to where I can play the way I know I can play and feeling good again because I haven't felt good in a number of years.”

Tagged: Tiger Woods

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