Tiger Woods Stared Down the Possibility of Losing His Leg and Focused on Getting Through ‘9 Months of Hell’ a Few Hours at a Time

Tiger Woods concedes returning to his days as the world’s clear-cut No. 1 golfer isn’t realistic. In fact, Woods’ most extensive interview since February’s serious automobile accident reveals an attitude bordering on ambivalence.

“I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life,” he told Golf Digest.

Tiger Woods is upbeat but practical while continuing his recovery

Tiger Woods catches a ball on the range during the final round of the PGA TOUR Champions PNC Championship at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on Dec. 20, 2020, in Orlando, Florida. | Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

It has been a long time since Tiger Woods has qualified as a full-time PGA Tour competitor. In fact, he has played more than a dozen tournaments in a season only once in the past seven years, a reflection of health issues and the perks associated with winning more major championships than anyone except Jack Nicklaus.

If he is able to resume playing competitively, it sounds as though even 12 tournaments might be more than Woods is willing to handle.

“I think something that is realistic is playing the tour one day — never full time, ever again — but pick and choose, just like Mr. (Ben) Hogan did. Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that,” Woods said in a Zoom interview with Golf Digest. “You practice around that, and you gear yourself up for that. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on.”

Woods called that concession “my reality,” adding that he accepts it.

Tiger Woods stared down the possibility of losing his right leg

February’s single-car crash in California left Tiger Woods with substantial lower-body injuries. Surgeons implanted a steel rod to stabilize his right leg and drilled screws into his ankle. The early days brought with them an unfathomable scare — the possibility of amputation — for an athlete whose career was built on walking four miles a day in tournaments.

“There was a point in time when, I wouldn’t say it was 50/50, but it was damn near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg,” Woods said.

That concern subsided, but doctors warned Woods that the remainder of 2021 would be difficult. A mindset learned from the golfer’s father about preparing for battles of interminable length carried him through the tough days.

“One of my dad’s ways of getting through (challenges) was live meal-to-meal,” Woods said. “I just shortened up the windows of, ‘Oh, this is gonna be nine months of hell,’ to, ‘It’s just two or three hours.’ If I can repeat these two to three hours at a time, next thing you know it adds up. It accumulates into weeks, months, and to a point where here I am talking to you and walking into a room.”

There is still a long way to go

Coming up on 10 months since the accident, Tiger Woods estimates he’s not even halfway through his recovery, a process complicated by previous ailments. He may carry a club in his hands while riding carts around the golf course, but his presence there is usually to watch his son, Charlie.

“As the leg gets stronger, sometimes the back may act up. … It’s a tough road,” he said. “But I’m just happy to be able to go out there and watch Charlie play or go in the backyard and have an hour or two by myself with no one talking, no music, no nothing.

“I just hear the birds chirping. That part I’ve sorely missed.”

Woods’ desire to play 18 with Charlie keeps him motivated. In the interim, he’s part swing coach and part sports psychologist around his son, who went through a spell of letting one bad hole carry over to the next.

“I said, ‘Son, I don’t care how mad you get. Your head could blow off for all I care just as long as you’re 100% committed to the next shot. That’s all that matters. That next shot should be the most important shot in your life. It should be more important than breathing.’”

That sounds very much like the old Tiger Woods.

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