He’s Back! Tiger to Defend Title and No. 1 Ranking at Doral

March 5, 2014

Tiger Woods at the Honda Classic (Carlos M. Saavedra/SI). Tiger Woods at the Honda Classic (Carlos M. Saavedra/SI).

He’s playing.
Last seen walking off the course with a bad back at PGA National during the final round of the Honda Classic, Tiger Woods will return Thursday to defend his WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral and his No. 1 ranking.
“My treatments have been fantastic,” Woods said. “I’ll be able to hit full shots and go all-out.”
Woods has not made full swings since he left the Honda Classic after 13 holes Sunday, but he has been practicing — his farthest shot this week was about 60 yards, he said. Woods and caddie Joe LaCava went out to tour the course on Wednesday afternoon. He said he would practice chipping and putting on Wednesday, but not full swings until Thursday.
Doral’s Blue Monster is a favorite of Woods, who has won four times here, but he has not played the course since the extensive Donald Trump-led redesign last year.
“I’ve got no idea about what that course holds,” Woods said.
Woods will tee off Thursday afternoon at 12:39 p.m. with Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson. In addition to defending his 2013 Cadillac Championship title, Woods will have extra motivation this week as Scott is slowly creeping up on Woods’ No. 1 ranking. If Scott wins this week and Woods finishes outside the top seven, Scott would take over the No. 1 spot. In his media conference Wednesday, Woods talked about how much the No. 1 ranking meant to him, especially since he regained the ranking with eight wins since 2012 after falling outside the Top 50.
“It feels good because you have to earn it,” Woods said of the No. 1 ranking and then took aim at some of his media critics. “A lot of you here had written me off … and here I am.”
After Doral, Woods is expected to play at Arnold Palmer-hosted Bay Hill — where he won last year — and then not play again until the Masters. He said that practice was more important to his Masters preparation than competitive rounds.
“It’s more important to keep my feels and that’s what comes from practice,” he said, adding that he plans to be at his best for the year’s first major. “I want to be strong and fit and healthy in order to play that course and give it my best.”
The nagging injuries that he’ll have to deal with during that preparation is just part of aging, he said, listing an inventory of aches and pains he’s suffered over his career to his elbow, back, knees and Achilles. The first time he tweaked his back was in college, he said.
“That’s the nature of a repetitive sport, you have repetitive injuries and most of my injuries are that,” Woods said. “As I get older I don’t quite heal as fast as I used to. I don’t bounce back like I used to.”
Following Woods’ withdrawal from the Honda Classic, Paul Azinger and Woods’ former coach Hank Haney suggested that Woods’ injuries might be the result of too much weight-lifting. Woods disagreed with that assessment on Wednesday.
“Most of the stuff we do is preventive stuff,” he said of his workout routine. “I am actually much smaller than I used to be.”
When a reporter suggested Woods try yoga, he responded that he’s tried it.
“It does help, no doubt,” he said “I’m just not too good with the patience part of it.”
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