Tiger Woods’s return to the course, and to competitive form, has been the talk of the summer — and heck, probably the year.
Since his return last December from spinal fusion surgery, TV ratings have spiked, galleries have swelled and Woods has on two separate occasions has come close to winning the 80th event of his career. Fans are eating it up, as evidenced by the frenzy he created at the PGA Championship in St. Louis.
Woods will tee it up again this week at the Northern Trust in Paramus, N.J., and on Tuesday he described the support he’s received from galleries this season.
“I’ve had people into it over the years, but this has been so different,” said Woods, who will compete in the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013. “We go back to how everyone received me at [the Valspar in] Tampa, that was very special and I had not received ovations and warmth like that. I guess everyone knows I’ve struggled and I’ve had some back pain and I’ve gone through four surgeries and I’m trying to work my way back, and it’s been tough. People understand that.
“I think that people are more, I guess, appreciative,” he added. “I don’t want to make that sound wrong or anything but they know I’m at the tail end of my career, and I don’t know how many more years I have left. But I’m certainly not like I was when I was 22. Forty-two is a different ballgame.”
The Northern Trust, the first leg of the four-event playoff, is Woods’s 15th start of the season. While he hasn’t won, he’s notched five top 10s and two runner-up finishes. He briefly held the lead on Sunday at the British Open and charged into second place at the PGA with a final-round 64.
“This has been a blessing, but man, it’s been so special to have this opportunity again,” he said. “I’m certainly not taking it for granted, that’s for sure.”
After the Northern Trust, Woods has committed to the Dell Technologies Championship and BMW Championship, with hopes of advancing to the Tour Championship at East Lake. After that: the Ryder Cup, where he’ll need to be a captain’s pick to play. He’s already a vice captain on the squad, but he now looks like a safe bet to suit up as a competitor for Jim Furyk’s squad in Paris.
“That is a lot of golf [coming up],” Woods said. “It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practice too much and don’t overdo it and making sure my training schedule goes well. That’s one of the hardest things from this year is trying to find the right balance, but as the summer has went on I’ve gotten better.”