You had brain surgery in late 2011 — doctors removed a quarter-dollar-size piece of your skull to relieve pressure caused by a structural defect called a Chiari malformation. Are you back to full strength?
Everything went well. I still have the piece of skull in my closet at home at Orlando. I had an okay year in 2012, considering everything that happened, and hopefully I'll come back strong and get my world ranking back up in 2013.
Do you have to take any special precautions? Do you still have dizzy spells?
I have one more checkup to go, probably one more MRI. The doctors don't ever give you, "You're 100 percent cured," but mine said it's very unlikely that I'll ever have an issue with it again. I'd say I was back to 100 percent by last July, and the last few months of the year it felt so good to be out there.
You had vertigo and wondered what was wrong, then went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for surgery. What was the scariest part?
It was probably right before the operation. I didn't know that much about the condition, but my doctor said it was about as easy a brain surgery as you could get. Still, it's brain surgery. I tried not to think I might never play again.
Were you conscious for it?
Oh no, I was out. Surgery took about an hour and a half.
You finished 80th on the money list with just under $1.2 million last season. Good year?
If I'd been 100 percent healthy I wouldn't have been real happy with that, but it wasn't bad — a tie for eighth in L.A., a tie for eighth in Houston. I had a bunch of tournaments where I was close but just had one bad round. I made 20 cuts in 25 events. It just took longer than I thought to recover. I was hitting it 230 at my limit when I came back. I thought, When am I gonna get the speed back?
How strong were you for the West Coast Swing?
I came back for the Farmers in San Diego about 75-80 percent. I figured I could get up and give it a shot, and I wasn't going to improve any more by sitting at home. But I missed the cut. I really kind of slapped it around the whole West Coast — the tournament in L.A. was kind of a fluke where I just putted really well.
You were part of the last winning U.S. Ryder Cup team in '08. Did you watch the American squad's heartbreaking loss at Medinah last September?
I did. You hate to see that happen to the guys. They played good all week. I've still got some stuff hanging up at my house from 2008. Paul [Azinger, the U.S. captain] had a great plan to get the players closer, and everybody played well. I would have liked to have seen Paul get the job again.
You've won twice on Tour, both times at TPC Scottsdale, and you played in one Masters , finishing tied for 25th. Where do you go from here?
I don't feel like I've won enough out there — I think I'm capable of winning a lot more than I have. I'd like to get back to Augusta. I've barely missed playing in the Masters a few times, and my first win [in 2006] was before win-and-you're-in. I'll stay in the same place for Phoenix and try to get the good vibes going. The courses on the West Coast are some of my favorite courses we play all year. And I really like Augusta. Hopefully I can play good enough early in the year to get in — that's the goal.
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Golf Magazine, on newstands now. Click here to subscribe to Golf Magazine and to learn about Golf Magazine All Access.