Tiger Woods is taking the second step in his return from yet another surgery this week at the first-ever Zozo Championship in Japan. But a bigger event looms in the near future, the 2019 Presidents Cup, and it’s very much on Tiger’s mind.
Will Woods, who will be U.S. captain for the first time, also play on the team down in Australia? To do so, he’ll have to award one of his four captain’s picks to himself because he didn’t earn one of the eight automatic spots on the team.
On Tuesday in Japan, Woods addressed reporters by first explaining in-depth the circumstances around his injury and recent knee surgery, one that would have happened a year ago if not for solid play on the course at the time.
“I was intending to actually get it done last year after the Hero World Challenge. Because I had played well in the playoffs and I’d won the Tour Championship, I figured I keep rolling with it,” Woods told reporters. “I wanted to play at Torrey at the beginning of the year, and if I had the surgery I wouldn’t be ready for Torrey Pines, and so I decided to not have the procedure done and tried to get through it the rest of the year.”
That plan ran aground when his knee issues got worse and started to limit him on the course, even to the point of struggling to crouch down and read putts.
“It progressively got worse and got to where it was affecting even reading putts. You could see it toward the end of the year that I wasn’t quite getting down on my putts well,” he said.
So when he was eliminated from the FedEx Cup Playoffs and barred from defending his Tour Championship win, Woods went ahead and had the surgery, a week earlier than he intended, and all went well, so much so that now he’s “right on schedule.”
While many observers thought that Tiger would give up on his publicly-proclaimed desire to be a playing-captain at the Presidents Cup in light of his surgery, when Tiger was asked about it directly on Tuesday, he answered indirectly, while dropping hints that it could still very much happen.
Woods said the “whole idea” of having the procedure when he did was “to be ready for this event, to be ready for the Hero and possibly Australia.” He originally planned to play through the year, but, he says, “it started affecting my back and the way I was walking, and trying to play and trying to read putts, all of the above.”
“I’m excited about having this end of the year run where I’m feeling much more fit,” Woods said, again hinting at the possibility of him playing in Presidents Cup. “I don’t have that achiness I’ve been dealing with for the past couple of years.”
As far as the Presidents Cup captaincy goes, Woods says he’s been “consumed” by the process. He praised his three vice captains and the eight players who automatically qualified for the team for helping him with the preparation. He’s also included them in the decision-making process for his captain’s picks, regularly picking their brains about “who they want on the team and who they think that will fit on the team.”
“I mean what we say is what we say and it just ends there,” Woods said about his style of open communication the eight players already on the team. “They sort of have voiced who they want on the team, and that’s been fantastic, that’s what I want to have happen.”
The question now is, have any of those eight players been open about wanting Woods himself on the team? We don’t know for sure, but no matter what Woods or the current team members think right now, Tiger’s performance this week in Japan will no doubt play a huge role in whether or not he picks himself, or decides instead to focus on his captain duties in Australia.
Woods tees off for the first round of the Zozo Championship Wednesday night at 7:40 p.m. ET
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