There wasn’t a dry eye on the course, or at home watching, when Tiger Woods completed his historic comeback two years ago at Augusta National, claiming his first major in over a decade and the 15th of his storied PGA career. But as breathtaking as his Masters coronation was, reaching the sport’s pinnacle after conquering injuries, divorce, addiction and every other pitfall a celebrity could possibly face on the lonely road to rock bottom, it would pale in comparison to his latest reclamation effort, returning from a harrowing car wreck that could easily have taken his life.
“I’m lucky to be alive,” expressed Woods, who said doctors told him it was “50-50” whether he’d keep his leg or have it amputated. “It's hard to explain how difficult it is. Being immobile for three months. Just to lay there.”
The most decorated golfer of his era, Woods was hospitalized for three weeks after his car veered off the highway in Rancho Palos Verdes—a Los Angeles suburb—the morning of February 23rd. It took the 45-year-old months to recover from compound fractures in each leg, only recently resuming golf.
Naturally, fans have spent the past several months wondering when—or if—Woods will return to the tour circuit in pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record for most majors (18), a mark that’s stood since his last victory at the 1986 Masters. Speaking to the media ahead of this week’s World Hero Challenge in the Bahamas, Woods said if he does return to the PGA in the coming months and years, it won’t be as a full-time player, acknowledging that part of his career is over.
“I don't have any desire to do that,” said Woods, dismissing the notion of playing a full schedule. “But to ramp it up for a few events a year and—as I alluded to Mr. [Ben] Hogan did, and he did a pretty good job of it—there's no reason that I can't do that.”
Woods told reporters he would “love” to play at St. Andrews—where he won the Open Championship in both 2000 and 2005—next summer, but obviously, he’ll have plenty of medical boxes to check before that can occur. “I don't foresee this leg ever being what it used to be,” said Woods, as transcribed by ESPN’s Bob Harig. “To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to is a little eye-opening, but at least I'm able to do it again. That's something that for a while there it didn't look like I was going to.”
Justin Thomas, one of Tiger’s closest friends on Tour, said on a podcast recently he doesn’t expect Woods to return unless he can be competitive. “He doesn’t strike me as a guy that’s going to play at home shooting a bunch of 75s and 76s and he’s like, 'All right, I’m going to give Augusta a try this year.' That’s just not him,” said Thomas during his appearance on No Laying Up. “But at the same time, I know how determined he is.”