There is no Masters this week, but had it been played at Augusta National, Tiger Woods says he would have been there in good health and ready to go.
Woods, who has not competed since Feb. 16 at the Genesis Invitational and missed at least two tournaments he would have normally played, told endorser GolfTV that he has been using the time away due to the coronavirus pandemic to his advantage.
“Night and day. I feel a lot better than I did then,” said Woods, who skipped the WGC-Mexico Championship and the Players Championship after complaining of back stiffness. “I’ve been able to turn a negative into a positive and been able to train a lot and get my body to where I think it should be at. I’ve been able to play some golf. Fortunately, Medalist Golf Club is still open here — virtually every course to the south of us is closed — but we remain open, so it’s been nice to go out there and hit some golf balls a little bit.
“You need to get some fresh air and do something. Obviously we have our social distancing; you can’t touch rakes or touch the flags. One person per cart, but at least the members and their kids are able to play a little bit, get out there and do something active. Some want to walk the dog, some want to roam the golf course, just doing some daily activity to get some exercise and give you peace of mind.”
Woods, 44, has played just twice in 2020, finishing in a tie for ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and then 68th — last among those who made the cut — at the Genesis Invitational.
It was there where he disclosed back problems that led him to skip the following week’s tournament in Mexico. There had been little information about his health in the interim.
“The hardest part that we always talk about ourselves, as professional golfers, is that it’s weird practicing with no end goal to get ready for,” Woods said in the interview. “Hypothetically, it could be this, it could be that. It changes from day to day. There seems to be something new, something different, and that’s one of the more difficult parts about it.
“You’ve seen players out there walking their dogs, some run the golf course, just doing some kind of daily activity gives them exercise and some peace of mind. Especially for the guys who were playing quite a bit and then have been shut down, they were gearing up, and I was talking to JT [Justin Thomas] about this the other day and I felt energetic, I felt really alive and wired and kind of irritable and I didn’t know what was going on.
“And I realized it was Sunday morning. I was supposed to be flying out to an event to hand out trophies to all the award winners. And my body, subconsciously I knew I was supposed to be getting ready to leave and start playing the Masters. [I thought] it’s not that; you’re not playing this week.”
Woods would have been on hand Sunday for the Drive, Chip & Putt event that has since been canceled. The Masters has been rescheduled for Nov. 12-15, and if it takes place, Woods would host the Champions Dinner on Nov. 10
In a photo he posted to social media Tuesday, Woods showed that he had replicated a Champions Dinner at home with his family while wearing the green jacket. He used the same menu he had predetermined for the former champions.
“I had exactly the same,” he said. “We had steak and chicken pieces, sushi and sashimi. We had cupcakes and milkshakes for dessert. So it was exactly what I was going to serve. As I said, Masters dinner quarantine-style with my family. We had a lot of fun, and eventually it got a little bit interesting at the end, a little ugly, where icing was flowing across people’s hair and face.”
As for not getting to defend his Masters title this week, Woods said: “This is not the way that I would’ve wanted to keep the jacket for a longer period of time. I wanted to get out there and compete for it and earn it again, like I did in ’02 [when he became just the third player to win back-to-back Masters]. But it’s not a normal circumstance, it’s not a normal world. It’s a very fluid environment, and it’s very different for all of us. Fortunately, we potentially could have a Masters in November and play it then. I guess I’ll be defending then, and hopefully that all comes about.”
On Monday, the various golf organizations announced the outline of a potential revamped schedule if government and health authorities approve a return to public activities. It has the PGA Championship in early August, the U.S. Open in September, the Ryder Cup a week later and the Masters in November.
The PGA Tour has not announced when it hopes to return to weekly events, but the Charles Schwab Cup in late May is still on the schedule, although there is considerable talk that the tour will wait until at least mid-June to attempt a return.
“I’m going to sit down with my team and figure out what is the best practice way, what is the best practice schedule, what are the tournaments that I need to play to be ready,” Woods said. “How much should I play; how much should I rest? All the things that are kind of up in the air.
“Again, we don’t exactly know when we’ll be playing these events. This environment, this world we’re living in right now is changing daily, sometimes even hourly.”
Asked for any words of wisdom during this time, Woods leaned on advice from his father.
“I go back to what my dad used to say, and that it’s true that he got through a lot of tough times, don’t look at it day by day,” Woods said. “He used to say, ‘Take it one meal to the next.’ So you go at it until the next meal, and then you figure it out, go out and get it until the next meal. When times are slow like when days feel like months or even years, you just try and break it up into pieces when you can accomplish things.
“Unfortunately for myself, I’ve been through episodes like this in my career with my back where seconds seem like months. You have to slow things down and do things at a different pace. Look at things with a different lens, from a different perspective, where you can accomplish goals, and I think at this point in time going from meal to meal has worked. I don’t know long this is going to work, how long we’re going to be in this pandemic, but for us it’s been these mini-goals that’s allowed us to keep going forward, and next thing you know it’s nighttime and it’s time for bed.”