PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The knee is better, the Achilles is better, and he’s going to play.
Tiger Woods confirmed Tuesday afternoon at the Stadium Course that he does, indeed, plan to play in the Players Championship this week. Woods’ statement put to rest concerns that pain from his lingering injuries, reportedly sustained during the third round of the Masters, might keep him out of the tournament just as it forced him to skip last week’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte.
“So I’m here playing,” Woods said after a nine-hole practice round in Tuesday’s 90-plus degree heat.
Woods said he rested his knee after the Masters and that he didn’t hit any balls until Monday. His nine-hole round Tuesday was the first golf he’s played since the Masters, he said.
“It didn’t feel good on Sunday [at the Masters], that was tough,” Woods said. “I played through it. I had to. I was in the midst of competing and had to power through it, so I did. I was able to shut it down for a little bit and was able to take care of it.”
Woods said he is taking anti-inflammatory medicine, applying ice and elevating his leg as part of his therapy.
“Nothing major,” he said. “I have a slight injury, you’ve just got to listen to the docs, take some time off and do the proper rehab. That’s the way it goes.”
Woods sounded very much like a man who is going to be careful this week. He didn’t discuss the possibility of withdrawing if the knee or his Achilles acts up, but certainly he isn’t as prepared as he’d like to be this week.
“It is what it is,” Woods said, repeating one of his favorite catchphrases. “The whole idea is that I peak four times a year. I’m trying to get ready for Congressional [the U.S. Open] and I need some playing time. I missed playing last week at a golf course I truly love playing, but I really want to get out there this week and compete. This is a big event and I want to be here and play.
“We’ll see how this week progresses,” Woods said. “If it flares up like it did at Augusta, then it flares up, but hopefully, it doesn’t.”
Woods won the Players in 2001, but his only top-10 finish here since then came in 2009, when he placed eighth. Last year, he withdrew during the final round due to neck pain caused by a bulging disk. He shot 70, 71 and 71 in the first three rounds before he pulling out.
Woods dropped another of his favorite catchphrases Tuesday when asked about his expectations for this week, considering his limited preparations.
“Same as always,” he said. “Try to win the event. Nothing has changed.”
One thing that’s different: he hasn’t won a tournament, any tournament, in more than 18 months.
“I’ve gone through some periods like this in my career,” Woods said. “There were some down times but this one has lasted longer than I would like. You keep progressing, playing through it, and I’m going to let it happen.
“If I hadn’t gone through it before, I probably wouldn’t have handled it like this,” Woods said. “The period I went through in ’97 through ’99 was brutal because I had never gone through a stretch like that, ever. I first made changes with Butch (Harmon) back in ’95 but I still won junior events, amateur events. I was still able to win. But I went through a period there where I won one tournament in two years.”
Asked which stretch was tougher, Woods replied, “That period, by far. If I had never gone through ’97 through ’99, then this period would have been just brutal.”
Woods said he took a lot of positives from his performance in the final round of the Masters, even though he came up short. Woods finished fourth after shooting 67 on Sunday.
“That was fun,” he said. “I had it going there for a bit and got myself right back in the event. I missed a few short ones. At 13, the 7-iron there was just a terrible golf shot after I just three-putted at 12, and I missed a short one at 15. You take those three shots away, and it would have been a very special round. Had I posted a number, I might have been up there.
“But hey, I gave it a run,” Woods said. “It was fun because I hit the ball the way I know I could on the weekend. Augusta was the way that I know I can play golf.”
However, Woods admitted that his putting and short game aren’t where he’d like them to be.
“The putting is not very good, quite frankly,” he said. “I haven’t putted as much because I’ve been working on my full swing. That’s part of the trade-off. You can’t do all of the above. Things are starting to piece together and it takes time.”
Woods is scheduled to tee off Thursday morning at 8:08 a.m. Eastern time with Martin Kaymer and Matt Kuchar.