Wednesday 21 February 2018

It's hard to imagine the way I was living, admits happy Woods

Tiger Woods addresses the media after yesterday’s practice round at the Hero World Challenge tournament. Photo: USA TODAY Sports
Tiger Woods addresses the media after yesterday’s practice round at the Hero World Challenge tournament. Photo: USA TODAY Sports

James Corrigan

Tiger Woods has revealed he cannot yet bear to watch the infamous video of his slurred, mumbling police interview after being arrested for driving under the influence and admitted he now finds it "hard to imagine the way I was living".

The 14-time major winner makes his first competitive appearance in 10 months at the Hero World Challenge, which begins in the Bahamas on Thursday, and is clearly relishing his return after spinal fusion surgery in April.

During a candid press conference - in which, for the first time he talked about his humiliating episode in May when he was found by police slumped over his steering wheel, the 42-year-old spoke of his determination to prove that he is more than a "YouTube golfer".

If he manages to do so it will be one of the great sporting comebacks of all time, particularly considering where he was six months ago as he wrestled with crippling pain and struggled with the fear that his career was over. The low point came in that Florida layby.

After being detained overnight, toxicology reports revealed he had two painkillers, a sleep drug and the active ingredient for marijuana in his system. He went through a treatment programme to deal with prescription medication and now claims to be completely clean.

Explained

"I was trying to go away from the pain and trying to sleep", Woods explained. "I've come out the other side and I feels fantastic. Now that I'm feeling the way I'm feeling, it's just hard to imagine I was living the way I was living with my foot not working, my leg not working and then the hours of not being able to sleep at all."

Woods insists he is now pain free; but then, he said the same at this 18-man invitational event last year. Indeed, Woods even insisted that his back was not a problem two events later after limping up the 18th of his only round at the Dubai Desert Classic in February. The next day Woods withdrew and has not been seen since.

It would be understandable for any cynic to roll their eyes at yet another Woods reappearance. However, it does seem different this time, if only in the sense that he appears to have set himself realistic targets. Woods has never turned up at any tournament before and not declared that he believes he can win. Until now.

"I'm winging this," he said. "I don't have any pain anymore in my back but I do have some stiffness. Like 'D'uh', it's fused. So just give me a little bit of time.

"I would like to say I'm here to win the damn thing like I always did but I don't know my body yet. I don't know what I can and can't do. There's no one out there I could turn to to ask what it's like when you're going at it as hard as I am. What does it feel like? What are the limitations? There is no one because the average age for this fusion is 58.

"This surgery was about quality of life because I didn't really have much I've been in bed for about two years. The neatest thing for me is to be able to get out of bed and I can grab a club and not use it as a crutch. My kids think I'm a YouTube golfer. I want them to come to a few events, I want them to feel the rush and see me in contention."

And for the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas? "In an ideal world, I would like to have them feel what some of my past guys had to go against all those years," Woods replied.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

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