| TIGER: Back from the woods
Jacksonville (Florida): Tiger Woods only made it look easy.
His dominance became even more impressive when he revealed that pain in his left knee was so intense last year it made him sick to his stomach, and he had to take injections just to keep playing.
“It was a tough, tough year, one I don’t want to have to go through again,” Woods said during a conference call Wednesday, his first interview since the December 12 knee surgery.
The bottomline looks healthy as ever.
Despite benign cysts that made his knee ligaments inflate like a balloon, Woods became the first player in 30 years to win a season’s first two Majors. He ruled golf for the fourth straight season, winning six titles.
Imagine how he might play if healthy.
Woods could get an answer soon. He received clearance from his doctors Saturday to hit a driver and as many practice balls as he wants. He’ll decide next week whether he is fit enough to return on February 13 for the Buick Invitational in San Diego.
If not, Woods said he would try to play either of the following weeks, in Nissan Open at Riviera or Match-play Championship.
Woods first revealed his left knee was hurting at the season-ending Tour Championship. He showed few signs of pain during the year, when he finished out of the top ten only twice after winning the Masters.
“It was a good acting job,” he said.
Woods had knee surgery while in college, although he says this injury is unrelated. He started feeling intermittent pain about two years ago, but it was never sore long enough for him to pay attention.
“Last year, toward the end, it was brutal,” he said. “A lot of times, I didn’t want to go out there and play. I felt nausea in my stomach because the pain was so great. I had it injected numerous times to play last year.
“I know what other athletes go through with those needles,” he said. “It’s not fun.”
Woods said the pain affected him in some of the Majors. It was hard to tell. He won the Masters and US Open by three strokes each, finished second by one stroke in the PGA Championship and was in contention at the British Open until an 81 on a cold, blustery Saturday at Muirfield.
The worst he felt was at Sherwood Country Club in December when he made up seven shots on Padraig Harrington in the final round before losing by two. He told his agent the night before he might have to withdraw.
“In the morning, it was borderline I would play,” Woods said. “I took painkillers, and it still hurt. As it started getting warmer, I was feeling better.”
The one-hour surgery removed fluid from inside and around the anterior cruciate ligament, and removed benign cysts.
Woods never got too far away from golf. He putted on his carpet, chipped into pillows and onto his bed, and started hitting wedges by the end of the year.
“I’m anxious to get back out, I really am,” Woods said. “It’s going to be one heck of a challenge.”