Woods ready for Players Championship after recovering from neck injury
Former world number one intent on maintaining his build up to the Masters at Augusta
Tiger Woods signs autographs for young fans during a practice round for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Tiger Woods has admitted his recent neck injury is a consequence of a fourth back surgery. The 43-year-old insisted at Sawgrass on Tuesday that he can manage the issue sufficiently to remain competitive.
Woods withdrew from last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, in the latest fitness setback to have dogged this phase of his career. He will feature in the Players Championship from Thursday. Woods explained the pain in his neck, which has now subsided, has been an occasional factor since last year’s Open Championship.
“It was getting to the point where it was affecting my set-up, my backswing, my through swing,” Woods said.
“It was just gradually getting worse. That’s just because my lower back is fused and so the stress has to go somewhere if I don’t have movement. So it’s very important for me going forward, since the surgery, to keep pliable or else the stress is going to go somewhere else.
“I’ve got to keep that moving, even though it’s fixed. I’ve got to keep all the other structures pliable, and that’s one of the issues of having a procedure like I did, that the forces have to go somewhere. I’ve got to stay fit, I’ve got to stay on it and have to stay as loose as I possibly can for as long as I play out here.
“It’s just part of the nature of the sport. If you have force, it’s got to go somewhere. If it’s not my lower back, it’s going to be in the hip; you know I have had four knee operations. It’s got to go somewhere. We’re not immune to having the forces go somewhere. Eventually on a repetitive sport, you’re going to wear out something.”
Woods, who is seeking a third career victory at Sawgrass, seems confident his preparation for the Masters has not been affected by his Bay Hill absence. The opening Major of the year is now just four weeks away.
“I’ve played three tournaments this year so far and that’s about right,” he added. “I was going to play three or four. If I would have gotten my rounds in last week, it would have been four tournaments, so I’m right there where I need to be.
“My finishes are getting a little bit better each and every time I’ve gone out so far this year, and I’ve gotten a little bit more consistent with my play. I think that everything is headed on track towards April.”
Woods confirmed that “if nothing flares up” here he intends to add the WGC-Match Play in Austin to his pre-Augusta schedule. His aspirations for 2019 are clearly more lofty than a year ago, when Woods’s professional future was in serious doubt.
“I know I can play again, I know I can win a golf tournament and so I know I can compete at the highest level,” he said.
“So that’s all good. Now it’s about keeping it consistent, keeping my body solid and fresh and pliable and athletic. These are all things that are a little bit more difficult as you progress in age, and these are the challenges I’m going to be facing going forward. I can’t sit out there and practice for eight to 12 hours like I used to.” – Guardian