(Reuters) – Tiger Woods hopes to play a full 2018 schedule, he said on Friday, while at the same time declining to commit even to competing in February’s Genesis Open which is run by his foundation.
Writing a year-end blog on his website on the eve of his 42nd birthday, Woods was generally upbeat about the condition of his surgically-repaired back, but what he did not say was perhaps just as significant.
“One way or another, I will be at Riviera,” the 14-times major champion wrote of the annual PGA Tour event played on the famous course in southern California.
“It’s such an historic site and the course will always have special meaning for me. That’s where it all started back in 1992 when I played in my first PGA Tour event at age 16.”
Woods made his latest comeback in December at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, eight months after undergoing a spinal fusion.
While his performance – he finished equal ninth of 18 players – was competent and he swung with apparent freedom, he acknowledged that he was in uncharted waters.
“I’m continuing to progress and trying to get strong enough to where I can handle a workload again,” he wrote.
“I would love to play a full schedule in 2018. What that entails, including back-to-back events, I don’t know. I just have to continue to work on my body and game and see where I pan out.
“I wish I knew where I was going to play and when I was going to play – it’s a lot easier to prep for that – but we really don’t know.”
Woods also acknowledged that his swing had changed.
“My swing is definitely shorter and I can’t turn as far. My back is fused and that’s as far as it’s going to go. But I was surprised at how explosive I was (at the World Challenge)…
“I’m more than a full-club longer than when I shut it down. I wasn’t hitting it very far and was struggling to hit it solid. That’s a bad combo.”
Woods, the second most successful golfer behind 18-times major winner Jack Nicklaus, has endured a challenging time since ending his 2014 season early in order to undergo what turned into multiple back surgeries.
He has played only occasionally since, with a couple of comebacks aborted by continuing pain.
In 2017 he decided to have two vertebrae in his lower back fused, which basically was an all-or-nothing last-ditch attempt to both ease his pain and allow him to resume golf.
The prognosis right now appears to be fairly good, but it has been far from smooth sailing this year for Woods, who in May was arrested asleep at the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
“I appreciate competitive golf now more than I ever have,” he wrote.
“During that 10-month period I was away from the game, I had a hard time walking and often needed assistance getting out of bed.
“To go from that and be able to play golf – I hadn’t played without pain for a long time – it was nice…
“It’s been a year filled with ups and downs, but I am very optimistic about 2018 and looking forward to great things on and off the golf course.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond)