Lorne Rubenstein scored a lengthy one-on-one interview with Tiger Woods at the golfer’s new restaurant in Jupiter, Fla. Here are 11 things we learned from the rare sit-down, which is posted in its entirety on TIME.com.
1. He does not want to retire at 39 — he’ll turn 40 on Dec. 30 — despite having undergone three back surgeries in a span of roughly 18 months.
“I don’t want it to happen. Without a doubt. I do not. With all my heart, I do not want to stop playing golf. But the flip side is, my kidsâ€™ lives are much more important to me. Now, if I can do both, that is an ideal world.”
2. His back has been so bad as to completely immobilize him.
“I was practicing out back at my house. I hit a flop shot over the bunker, and it just hit the nerve. And I was down. I didnâ€™t bring my cell phone. I was out there practicing and I end up on the ground and I couldnâ€™t call anybody and I couldnâ€™t move. Well, thank God my daughterâ€™s a daddyâ€™s girl and she always wants to hang out. She came out and said, ‘Daddy, what are you doing lying on the ground?’ I said, ‘Sam, thank goodness youâ€™re here. Can you go tell the guys inside to try and get the cart out, to help me back up?’ She says, ‘Whatâ€™s wrong?’ I said, ‘My backâ€™s not doing very good.’ She says, ‘Again?'”
3. He has not oriented his life around breaking Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 major championship titles. Heâ€™s tried to beat Nicklaus in other ways, too.
“O.K., hereâ€™s the major misconception that people have all gotten wrong. Itâ€™s what was posted on my wall, about Jackâ€™s records. It was not [just] the majors. O.K. There was one [posting] on there. It was the first time he broke 40, the first time he broke 80, the first golf tournament he ever won, first time he ever won the state amateur, first time he won the U.S. Amateur, and the first time he won the U.S. Open. That was it. That was the list. It was all age-related. To me, that was important.”
4. He has gained a new perspective on his sex scandal, to the point where heâ€™s now â€˜best friendsâ€™ with ex-wife Elin Nordegren.
“In hindsight, itâ€™s not how I would change 2009 and how it all came about. It would be having a more open, honest relationship with my ex-wife. Having the relationship that I have now with her is fantastic. Sheâ€™s one of my best friends. Weâ€™re able to pick up the phone, and we talk to each other all the time. We both know that the most important things in our lives are our kids. I wish I would have known that back then.”
5. He has found his own way to explain to his kids what happened.
“Iâ€™ve â€¦ told them up front, ‘Guys, the reason why weâ€™re not in the same house, why we donâ€™t live under the same roof, Mommy and Daddy, is because Daddy made some mistakes.’ I just want them to understand before they get to Internet age and they log on to something or have their friends tell them something. I want it to come from me so that when they come of age, Iâ€™ll just tell them the real story. But meanwhile, itâ€™s just, ‘Hey, Daddy made some mistakes. But itâ€™s O.K. Weâ€™re all human. We all make mistakes. But look what happened at the end of it. Look at how great you are. You have two loving parents that love you no matter what.'”
6. He has a low opinion of golf broadcasters, not just writers.
“Some of the announcers, they donâ€™t even go on the golf course. And they look at a pin sheet from the booth, but theyâ€™ve never surveyed the golf course, even though the television coverage doesnâ€™t come on until the afternoon. You have all that time to go walk the golf course, to see some of the early rounds, see what guys are doing, how theyâ€™re hitting it, howâ€™s the course playing, is the wind coming up? All those different things that you could do. The only one who does that is Finchy [golf broadcaster and former PGA Tour pro Ian Baker-Finch].”
7. His foundation is getting help from some heavy hitters.
“Weâ€™re looking at expanding internationally. To be able to call up Condi Rice and say, ‘How do we do this?’ She says, ‘O.K., what country is involved?’ She can work with the embassies there, the universities. Those are conversations I couldnâ€™t have when I was younger. I didnâ€™t earn the right to be able to have the conversations. But now itâ€™s legitimate. Weâ€™re in our 20th year. We have $100 million in endowment, thatâ€™s pretty good.”
8. His toughness in playing through injuries helped and hurt him.
“Itâ€™s made injuries worse. Iâ€™ve paid the price. If you look at the U.S. Open in â€™08, I played on no ACL, Iâ€™d ruptured my ACL in â€™07, but I still won five of the last six tournaments I played that year, and the following year, I played six tournaments, I won four and finished second in the Masters. And so, understand that I can play through it, and I can still win, I can be successful, but along the way Iâ€™m just doing damage.”
9. Although he has formed friendships with Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, he has only recently gotten to know Jordan Spieth.
“Probably one of my closest buddies now is Jason. Iâ€™m still really close with Rory, and Iâ€™ve gotten a little bit closer to Jordan over the years, ever since we played on the same Presidents Cup team. Now weâ€™re able to speak to each other. I didnâ€™t even know who he was. Iâ€™d seen him play but never really got the chance to know the kid. Getting to know him, heâ€™s a great kid.”
10. His success surprises even him.
“Iâ€™m shocked at how many tournaments Iâ€™ve won, in hindsight, now that Iâ€™m laid up. More than 100 around the world. Playing through it, you really donâ€™t realize it. If youâ€™re in a team sport, you donâ€™t realize how many games youâ€™ve won. It just piles up on you. I wouldnâ€™t think that [Tom] Brady right now knows how many games heâ€™s won. You just play, you get ready for the next week, youâ€™re in that moment. Youâ€™re always getting ready, always getting ready, always getting ready. Well, I canâ€™t get ready for anything.”
11. He doesn’t like watching golf.
“I canâ€™t remember the last time I watched golf. I canâ€™t stand it. Unless one of my friends has a chance to win, then I like watching it. I watched Jason [Day] win the PGA. But it was on mute. Itâ€™s always on mute and I have some other game on another TV.”