ST. LOUIS (AP) — Tiger Woods is chipping and putting again, and he hopes to play in the Memorial in two weeks. But even if he can’t compete until the U.S. Open, he doesn’t expect the same result as his last layoff during a season.
Two years ago, Woods didn’t play for nine weeks while coping with the death of his father. He returned to competition in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and missed the cut for the only time in a major.
“That was a totally different mental situation than I am now,” Woods said Monday. “Even when I came back for the Open, I probably wasn’t ready to play yet. I was eager to get back and play and be in a competitive environment, but I wasn’t ready to deal with all the things you have to deal with inside the ropes. … And it showed, and I played terrible.
“This time around, it’s totally different,” he added. “Everything in my life is doing great. I’m just trying to get the leg organized enough to where I can play, and hopefully, I can play before. If not – if I can’t play before – then hopefully, at the Open.”
Woods had surgery on his left knee April 15 for the second time in five years, this time to clean out some cartilage. He has not played since finishing three shots behind Trevor Immelman at the Masters.
Doctors said the recovery would be four to six weeks, and Woods said his rehabilitation was going well.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m getting sick and tired of riding the bike,” he said.
Woods spoke on a video conference to promote the BMW Championship, which he won last year on his way to capturing the FedEx Cup. The tournament will be held Sept. 4-7 at Bellerive Country Club, where Woods has played only a practice round. He was on the course the morning of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
He has been able to chip and putt, and Woods said he hopes to work his way through the bag to hit fuller shots as he regains strength. But he is in no shape to play now, except for a short game contest.
“I couldn’t compete against those guys, unless we were playing a putt-putt course,” he said. “All I could do was chip and putt. I think they would have a distinct advantage over me for anything over 30 yards.”
Woods first had surgery on his left knee in 1994 to remove a benign tumor. He had surgery again in December 2002, and won 30 times and five majors since then. He is not worried about a chronic condition in his knee or his health as he pursues Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.
“After the first surgery, I said I probably wouldn’t have another one. Then after the second one, I wouldn’t have another one,” he said. “And now here I am having three. It is what it is. It’s the nature of playing sports.”
Woods could not defend his title at the Wachovia Championship, won by Anthony Kim. He missed The Players Championship for the first time in his career, and Sergio Garcia won in a playoff.
“I want to thank Tiger for not being here,” Garcia said after his victory. “That always makes things a little bit easier.”
The Memorial, hosted by Nicklaus and a course on which Woods has won three times, starts May 29. The U.S. Open is June 12-15 at Torrey Pines, where Woods has won six times as a pro.
Woods said the course will play differently in June for a U.S. Open than it does in the winter at the Buick Invitational.
“I’m looking forward to playing there when it is dry and fast,” Woods said. “The golf course will be set up fair and it will be difficult. You will have to play well and to win a U.S. Open, you have to play well.”
He still remembers his last trip to St. Louis for a tournament that was never played. Woods was playing a practice round with Mark Calcavecchia at the American Express Championship when PGA Tour security told him of the hijacked planes crashing into the Twin Towers.
“We all knew what that meant,” Woods said. “We all went to the clubhouse to watch the horrific events.”