MONTGOMERY, Texas — Tiger Woods played what he said were his first holes of golf on Monday since competing in the Wyndham Championship in August, a casual five holes with buddy Mark O’Meara at Bluejack National Golf Club.
Woods was on hand to officially open the course he designed, taking part in a lengthy warm-up session while club members gathered around the driving range to listen to him and O’Meara tell old golf tales. They then joined the major champions on the course, where Woods hit plenty of good shots — and some not so good ones, too.
“I’m definitely a little tired but I feel pretty good,” Woods said in an interview afterward. “I haven’t been out here playing like this. I hadn’t played any holes until today. I know people have said I’ve played holes back at Medalist, but I haven’t. This is actually the first time I’ve played holes since Wyndham. It’s been awhile.
“I’m just progressing. You saw how I was going at it today, nice and smooth. That’s harder than I have been going at it the last month. Just gradually progressing. We’re just trying to progress and I’m doing that.”
Woods, 40, has not played since a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship at the conclusion of his worst season on the PGA Tour. He missed three cuts in major championships and four overall. A 10th-place tie was his best finish.
Then he underwent two back surgeries in the span of six weeks. When he appeared at his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge in December, his demeanor was somber. Woods talked then like he was unsure if he would play again.
“I would not have said I would be here like this five months ago,” he said. “I wouldn’t have thought I’d be able to do what I did here now. Or play with my kids again, things of that nature.
“It’s been a long road. To actually be able to play soccer with my kids again, to do something like this, to be able to live life … that’s what’s been nice. Five months ago I couldn’t. To be three months out of surgery and feel like that, it was tough. I still have a long ways to go. [But] I’m on the back side. I’m getting better, but I’m also getting closer to feeling better every day.”
Woods, who attended the Champions Dinner prior to the Masters earlier this month, said he is not targeting a specific tournament for his return, and skirted talk of reports that he would be playing tournament golf soon. Woods is registered to play at the U.S. Open in June, but that move is “simply procedural,” his agent Mark Steinberg said.
“I’ve got to get stronger and I’ve got to get faster,” Woods said. “I’m not hitting it very far right now. I still have a lot more to go in the tank as far as speed, which is great. I’m able to hit the ball as far as I am right now just cruising. Then trying to work on new drivers [he experimented with two on Monday], too, at the same time. That’s kind of a test.
“I know I need to hit a bunch of drivers. But I can’t hit a bunch of drivers. I’m trying to figure that out.
“I haven’t set any date to when I’m playing again, which is frustrating to say. But to be honest with you, that’s what I’ve had to do. I’ve had to go with that mindset. Would I have said that five months ago? No way. I couldn’t imagine then feeling like I do right now. Keep improving. Keep getting better. Keep making progress. And I’m doing that.”