Tiger Woods said the neck injury that forced him to skip last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational feels good entering The Players Championship.
Woods, 43, spoke after playing a nine-hole practice round Tuesday. He said he first started experiencing the neck pain during the Genesis Open at Riviera, and that it gradually increased to the point where he needed to take time off to let it heal.
“It’s not painful now,” Woods said Tuesday. “It was getting to the point where it was affecting my setup, my backswing, my through-swing. Just gradually getting worse.”
Woods has undergone four back surgeries, the most recent one a spinal fusion procedure in 2017, and he continually has stated that he is learning what his body is capable of.
“It’s just the nature of the sport,” Woods said. “The forces have to go somewhere. I have to stay fit, I have to stay on it, and I have to stay as loose as I possibly can for as long as I play out here.
“In a repetitive sport, you’re going to wear out something. It’s just very important for me since the surgery to keep pliable.”
The Players being moved back to March was one of the key parts of the significant changes made to this season’s schedule by the PGA Tour. Woods is the only player to win the event in both March and May (2001, 2013).
“It’s so familiar to some of us who have played in March,” he said. “It’s soft, it’s wet with the rain last night. We were getting mud balls. It’s back to how it used to play.
“The course just plays so much shorter in May than it does in March. Knowing that I’ve been between 6-iron and 5-iron on 17 to hit the shot, not too many people can say that unless they’ve played in March.”
Woods has played in only three tournaments in 2019, but has placed in the top 20 in each of them: a tie for 20th at the Farmers Insurance Open, T-15 at the Genesis Open and T-10 at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
He wouldn’t commit to his schedule leading up to next month’s Masters, saying only, “We’ll see after this week.”
If healthy, Woods would be expected to play in at least one of the two lead-up events: next week’s Valspar Championship or the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play the following week.
Woods will be paired with defending champion Webb Simpson and Ryder Cup partner Patrick Reed for the first two rounds this week.
“I’ve played three tournaments this year, and that’s about right,” Woods said when asked if he feels prepared for this week. “I’m right there where I need to be. I think that everything is on track heading towards April.”