Tiger Woods Is Back. He’s Still a Work in Progress.

“There was a touch and go whether I would be back after my back fusion,” he said, referring to the complex operation he had in 2017 after failed back surgeries and a need for opioids. “I didn’t know if I was going to walk again after that and I came back and had a nice little run. Same thing with this leg: I didn’t know if I was able to play again and I played three majors last year. Yes, when you get a little bit older and you get a little more banged up you’re not as invincible as you once were.”But the nature of golf, he insisted, makes it possible to ignore ordinary retirement timelines for athletes.“There’s no contact, I don’t have 300-pound guys falling on top of me,” said Woods, who is still dealing with the plantar fasciitis that sidelined him in the autumn. “It’s just a matter of shooting the lowest score. We have the ability to pick and choose and play a little bit longer.”That is true. Arnold Palmer played his 50th and final Masters in 2004, when he was 74. Gary Player appeared in 52, his last when he was 73.This week in California, moments after Woods made clear he would not be looking to match Player or Palmer at Augusta, a reporter asked Woods to peer into the future. “If you’re 60 and you don’t wake up with the irrational belief ‘I could win this tournament,’” the question went, “could you still enjoy any of it?”Maybe — maybe — someday, the response effectively went.“If I’m playing in the event I’m going to try and beat you. I’m there to get a W, OK?” he said. “So I don’t understand that making the cut’s a great thing. If I entered the event, it’s always to get a W.”Reality looms, though, and his next sentences showed it.“There will come a point in time when my body will not allow me to do that anymore, and it’s probably sooner rather than later,” he said. “But wrapping my head around that transition and being the ambassador role and just trying to be out here with the guys, no, that’s not in my DNA.”

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