By Tony Jimenez
HOYLAKE England (Reuters) – Tiger Woods’s back operation in March robbed the former world number one of a quarter of the golf season but at least it has given him a fresh outlook on his career.
The 14-times major champion will be making his second competitive appearance in four months at this week’s British Open and Woods is just happy to be back at the venue of his memorable 2006 victory at Royal Liverpool.”With this particular injury with my back I didn’t want to do anything,” Woods told reporters on Tuesday. “I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t move around the house.
“That made me appreciate just how fortunate I was to be able to play at that high level for the better part of 17 years. It made me appreciate that a lot more.”
Woods famously won the 2008 U.S. Open, the most recent of his major triumphs, virtually on one leg due to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) problems that eventually led to surgery.
“When I had no ACL and my leg was pretty trashed I could actually still go out there and play,” explained the 38-year-old American. “I couldn’t do that with this back injury.
“I couldn’t actually enjoy my life…the daily things of just moving around. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”
Woods missed the cut on his comeback at the Quicken Loans National event in Maryland last month but he is delighted just to be pain-free these days.
“The people who have had my surgery, they’ve all said the same thing. It changes your whole life, it just takes away all the pain,” said the world number seven.
“Yeah, you’re sore from the incision but you don’t have that radiating pain that goes down the leg. Once that was removed, even though I was hurting from the surgery, I knew I could come back and play.
A MATTER OF TIME
“It was just a matter of time before I got out here and was able to play at elite level again. Once I went through the procedure and I was just sitting in the recovery room and I didn’t have that pain any more it was a lot of relief.”
Former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange told Reuters earlier this month that Woods had to limit his ambitions at Hoylake because of his limited playing time since surgery.
Golf’s great drawcard, however, said he had proved in the past how he can triumph in the face of adversity.
“I’ve been in circumstances like this before,” Woods added. “In 2008 I had surgery after the U.S. Masters at Augusta.
“The Sunday before the U.S. Open I didn’t break 50 for nine holes and still I was able to win it in a playoff (with Rocco Mediate) with an ACL and a broken leg.
“I’ve proven I can do it. It’s just a matter of giving myself the best chances this week, to miss in the correct spots, to be aggressive when I can and obviously to hole putts.
“That’s a recipe you find for every major championship.”
Woods’s golfing mentor, his father Earl, died in the months leading up to the Hoylake Open in 2006 and he said his tear-stained victory that week was extra special.
“That was a very emotional week,” he said. “I pressed pretty hard at Augusta that year because it was the last time my dad was ever going to see me play in a major championship.
“I came here and just felt at peace. On Sunday I felt real calm out there.
“It was surreal at the time. I felt my dad was with me in that round,” said Woods.
“I said it back then in 2006 that it was like having a 15th club in the bag.”
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)