MONTGOMERY, Texas -- There was yet another Tiger Woods sighting Wednesday.
This one came at the opening of his 10-hole short course at Bluejack National, his first U.S. design, outside of Houston. Woods walked all 10 holes with no noticeable limp or any outward pain and even hopped up a pair of steps to get his press conference, dispelling recent rumors that he had suffered a setback while recovering from his latest back surgery.
But he also cast serious doubt on whether he would return in time for the Masters.
In an exclusive interview before the course opening, Woods said, “I wish I could say [when I will return]. Do I want to? Absolutely. I would love to play [at the Masters]. I would love to say I’m playing next week, but is that realistic?” He began to chuckle. “No. Far from it.”
Regardless of whether he's in the field at Augusta National, Woods said he’s likely to attend the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night of tournament week.
Woods also put to rest another rumor that he had recently been hitting drivers or playing practice holes, saying that he had not played a single hole on a regulation course since last fall and had not hit any clubs longer than a 9-iron.
Last week Woods attended a Ryder Cup dinner with nearly 40 American players at Jack Nicklaus’ house in South Florida. Woods said he spent time with a variety of the younger pros, telling stories about his Ryder Cup experience and Tour wins. Seeing his peers, he said, was both exciting and frustrating.
“I miss being around those guys,” he said. “We’re a fraternity and I miss being around them in the locker room and playing with them.”
Woods said he is still rehabbing his back but making progress.
“I’m much better now than I was back in the fall,” he said. “I was in a lot of pain back then. I’m able to do stuff with my kids now, but I still can’t keep up with them.”
Woods last played a PGA Tour event at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., in late August. He was in contention after 54 holes but tied for 10th. Since then he has had another surgery on his back and said because of nerve damage he did not know when he would be back.
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“When will I know?” he said. “That’s a great question. I don’t know.”
When asked about reports that recently surfaced on social media alleging that he was struggling to recover and unable to walk, Woods merely shook his head.
“Welcome to my world,” he said.
Bluejack National opened nine holes on its regulation course in the fall, with the full 18 holes scheduled to open in late April. Woods is expected to return to the property for the grand opening.