JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - Tiger Woods said he was “optimistic” about his golfing future while at the same time publicly acknowledging what has been obvious for some time, that he might never return to competitive golf.
The American former world number one won the last of his 14 major titles in 2008 and the 41-year-old has only played six competitive rounds in the past two years while trying to recover from multiple back surgeries.
“Yeah, definitely. I don’t know what my future holds for me,” he said on Wednesday on the eve of the Presidents Cup when asked whether there was a scenario that would not allow him to compete again.
“I don’t know what 100 percent (healthy) means after eight surgeries, but I’ll try and get as close as I can to that number,” Woods added.
“Is anybody in here who is in their 40s ever going to feel like they did in their 20s? Huh? Seriously? Exactly. As I’ve told you guys, I‘m hitting 60-yard shots.”
Woods was peppered with questions during a news conference with his three assistant Presidents Cup captains and the four International assistants, who often looked bored at the focus stayed on the second most prolific major champion of all time.
It was his first press conference since he was arrested close to his Florida home in May under suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs.
Toxicology reports revealed he had several prescription drugs in his system at the time.
Woods, who looked strong and outwardly healthy, said the desire to have fun was fuelling his drive to return to competition.
“I’ve been competing in golf tournaments since I was four years old. It’s always been fun for me,” he said.
”Overall, I‘m very optimistic how I‘m progressing. The pain’s gone but I don’t know what my golfing body is going to be like, because I haven’t hit a golf shot yet.
”So that’s going to take time to figure out what my capabilities are going forward, and there’s no rush.
“First things first. Just keep waiting for what the surgeon says. I‘m still training, getting stronger, but I don’t have my golf muscles trained because I‘m not doing anything golf related.”
Woods seemed destined to become the most prolific major winner of all time when he won the 2008 U.S. Open, moving within four titles of the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus.
But he has not won a major since and serious back injuries often left him crippled with pain when he tried to play over the past three years.
“There were times when I didn’t know if I was going to be able to be here, because I couldn’t ride in a cart. The bouncing just hurt too much,” he said.
”That’s all gone now, which is fantastic.
“There were some intrepid times, not just for this golf tournament but for life going forward.”
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond