Tiger Woods tackles a wide variety of subjects – from the state of his leg to the state of his swing, and from the state of the professional circuits to the state of the stadium where he had hoped to launch his new indoor golf league, and why he’s against one rule for all players when it comes to the golf ball
With all the success you’ve had in your career. What drives you, at the age of 47, to still go out to the practice range and hit golf balls?
What drives me is that I love to compete. There will come a point in time – and I don’t think I’m there yet – when I won’t be able to win again. When that day comes, I’ll walk away.
Gone are the days of me pounding balls on the range all day. I’ve played a lot of holes, but I haven’t been using a pencil and a scorecard, so I was interested to see how I would fair under tournament conditions and with a scorecard in my hand. As it turns out, not too bad.
I was a little rusty out there, which showed in my first round, but I was pretty happy to play 72 holes in level par. It was a long way off from where I want it to be, but that was to be expected, as far as a beta test goes I think it went ok. I made a few mistakes, and I missed a couple of putts, but I certainly felt better each day, which can only be a good thing. Things are not as sharp as they normally would be. There’s some good in there and I have just got to make sure that the good is more consistent than it has been. At home I can play and I can walk, but it’s different when you’re at game speed.
How are you feeling physically after all the operations that you’ve had, and how is that impacting on your game?
I’m very excited at how I have felt physically. I have shown myself that I can recover each day, that was kind of an unknown as far as I’ve walked this far. I’ve done all my training but add in playing and concentration and adrenaline, and all those other factors that speed up everything, and it’s a very different scenario compared to hitting balls at home.
Physically, I don’t have any of the pain in my ankle that I had when I was playing at Augusta. Other parts are taking the brunt of the load. But that surgery was a success. The hard part was the six months after surgery, sitting around doing nothing. The first couple of months were really tough, so now I’ve come out the other end and I’m feeling my way back into the game.
As far as my game in concerned, there are some shots that I can’t hit now that I could when I first started out in the game, but I’ve always been able to hit the ball out of the middle of the clubface, so that’s been good. I’m hitting the ball further than I did when I first came out on tour. I’m swinging slower, but I’m still able to hit the ball in the middle of the face, and there’s always an advantage in being able to do that.
What are your expectations for 2024 in terms of playing on tour?
I think the best scenario would be maybe to play a tournament a month – I think that’s realistic. You would have to start maybe at the Genesis Invitational in February, and something in March near The Players. We have it set up in the schedule right now that there is at least one big event per month. Now, I need to get myself ready for all that and I think this week [the Hero World Challenge] is a big step in that direction.
As a member of the PGA Tour’s policy board how did you feel when you first heard that the Tour’s leadership had been in talks with the Saudi PIF and had reached a loose agreement to work together after all that had gone on over the previous year. What is your take on the way this whole situation has been handled by the PGA Tour?
I would say that my initial reaction was surprise, as I’m sure was the reaction of a lot of the players. We were very frustrated with what happened. It happened so quickly, without any of our involvement it was just thrown out there. No one knew. That can’t happen again. And how we do that is having six player/directors so we control the board and we control what we’re going to do.
I think Jay [Monahan, PGA Tour commissioner] has been a part of that direction, he understands what happened prior to that can’t happen again and won’t happen again, not with the players that are involved and not with the player/directors having the role that we have.
There are so many different things that have happened in the last few weeks and months that it’s hard to get a handle on where things currently stand. The deadline for the discussions is coming up soon [December 31], so there are still a lot of moving parts, and a lot of different things happening very quickly. That’s one of the things that all of us as player-directors on the PGA Tour Policy Board have been working on. Everything is now at a time crunch. It’s 24 hours a day just trying to figure it out.
What’s your view on the USGA and R&A’s joint decision to include amateurs in the proposed rollback of golf ball distance?
I’ve always said that professionals and amateurs should operate under a different set of rules when it comes to equipment. We’ve been hammering on about how the ball needs to slow down for almost my entire career, but it has kept speeding up, and now here we are.
If you play in a pro event or you have a ‘P’ next to your name, you should be playing a pro ball. If you have an ‘A’ next to your name and you’re playing an amateur event, you should use an amateur ball.
Speaking as player and now also as a golf course designer, the time has come to put a halt on distance. We simply don’t have enough property left to keep extending our existing golf courses or making new ones longer – it’s just not sustainable. Under the new rules the long hitters on tour will still be the longest hitters on tour, so their relative advantage will remain the same, but what’s the point in reducing the drive of the club golfer who busts a gut to hit it 250 yards?
Finally, it’s obviously disappointing that the new Tech Golf League with which you are a key figure has had to be put back a year. How confident are you that it will launch next year given the current flux in the professional golfing world?
I’ve been a believer in TGL, and as the momentum has built this past year, I’m even more excited about what this can become for fans of the game all around the world. Although the events surrounding the stadium collapse will force us to make adjustments to our timelines, I’m fully confident that this concept will be brought to life by our great team of committed players.