PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Tiger Woods is feeling better, he says. After a neck injury kept him out of last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, the 14-time major champion is back in action at this week’s Players Championship. Woods explained in his pre-tournament press conference that he began feeling some discomfort at the Genesis Open several weeks ago, but things have gotten better since.
“It started a little bit at L.A. but wasn’t a worry,” Woods said Tuesday. “But it started to get a little tighter and tighter and tighter as I played more holes in Mexico.” He added that his putting, which was already “uncomfortable” before any pain, was made worse by the injury. “You can only swing or make the movement as good as your body’s feeling,” he said.
Woods said he took several days off before resuming practice, and that the time away seemed to have its desired effect. On Monday and Tuesday, Woods was spotted at TPC Sawgrass working with GOLF Top 100 Matt Killeen on his putting.
“It’s not painful now,” Woods said. “It was getting to the point where it was affecting my setup, my backswing, my through swing. It was just gradually getting worse. But that’s just because my lower back is fused, and so the stress has to go somewhere if I don’t have movement, and so it’s very important for me going forward since the surgery to keep pliable or else the stress is going to go somewhere else.”
Rather than his neck, Woods said his focus is on keeping his lower back loose.
“I’ve got to keep that moving, even though it’s fixed,” he said. “I’ve got to keep all the other structures pliable, and that’s one of the issues of having a procedure like I did, that the forces have to go somewhere. I’ve got to stay fit, I’ve got to stay on it, and have to stay as loose as I possibly can for as long as I play out here.”
Channeling Tom Brady, Woods dropped the word “pliable” three times in his presser, and added that he had first felt the neck pain during his run at last year’s British Open. In all, he feels good, though he spoke more cautiously than usual. “We’re not immune to having the forces go somewhere. Eventually on a repetitive sport, you’re going to wear out something.”
Woods dismissed any idea that he is behind on Masters preparation, too, saying that his three starts this year is “about right” for this point in the season.”My finishes are getting a little bit better each and every time I’ve gone out so far this year, and I’ve gotten a little bit more consistent with my play, and I think that everything is headed on track towards April,” he said.