Tiger Woods admits he's 'rusty,' still eyes win at Genesis Invitational

February 14, 2023, 3:59 PM

PALISADES, Calif. -- Tiger Woods said he's still having problems with his right ankle and dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot but insists he wouldn't be playing in this week's Genesis Invitational if he didn't think he could contend or even win.

Woods, 47, will be making his first start in an official PGA Tour event since he missed the cut at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews in July. He was forced to pull out of the Hero World Challenge, an event he hosts in the Bahamas in December, because of plantar fasciitis. He said the pain in his right foot hasn't completely gone away but is better.

"As far as the recovery, it's more my ankle, whether I can recover from day to day," Woods said during a news conference on Tuesday. "The leg is better than it was last year, but it's my ankle. So being able to have it recover from day to day and meanwhile still stress it but have the recovery and also have the strength development at the same time, it's been an intricate little balance that we've had to dance."

It has been almost two years since Woods was seriously injured in a car wreck not far from Riviera Country Club, the site of this week's tournament, which Woods hosts and which benefits his foundation. Woods underwent multiple surgeries on his right leg and foot; he said surgeons nearly had to amputate his right leg.

"It's gotten so much better the last couple months," Woods said. "I'm excited to go out there and compete and play with these guys. And I would not have put myself out here if I didn't think I could beat these guys and win the event. That's my mentality. I am very rusty, but I've come off a rusty situation before and I've done well."

Winning or even competing on the weekend at Riviera Country Club would be a remarkable step forward for Woods. Last season, he competed in just nine rounds in three major championships. He finished 47th in the Masters, his first start since the wreck, and then withdrew after 54 holes at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills because of pain in his right leg.

Woods was 9-over after 36 holes at the Old Course in St. Andrews and missed the cut at The Open.

Woods hasn't competed in an official PGA Tour event in nearly seven months. He did team with Rory McIlroy to play Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in The Match, a 12-hole exhibition for charity, and played with his son, Charlie, in the PNC Championship in December. Woods was able to use a cart in those events.

"As you watch that PNC, I was able to play out of the cart and hit shots and do whatever I wanted, but I just didn't have the endurance in my ankle, so we've been working on that," Woods said. "I can still hit shots, but it's the walking endurance that's hard. That's something that we've had to work on -- walking distances on the beach, just basically stress it out but also be able to recover by the next day and see how it is inflammation-wise and then keep practicing. I may have overdone it a couple times here or there, but here I am."

Woods said his plan all along was to compete in the Genesis Invitational and then gauge whether his body could endure playing in another event before the Masters.

"The plan was to play [in the Genesis]," he said. "Whether or not this body would listen to me or not was the main question. As I told some of you guys that were down at the Hero and the [PNC Championship], I could do the Ranger Rick thing, so I can hit golf balls and do all that stuff. It's a matter of whether I have endurance in my leg. We've been pushing it pretty good and [was] able to recover each and every day, which is great. So I'm excited about being able to compete and play and play here at Riviera, where basically it all started."

Woods spent part of Monday riding around the North Course of Los Angeles Country Club, site of the U.S. Open on June 15-18. He will attend a players' meeting Tuesday. He is scheduled to play in an 18-hole pro-am Wednesday; he had the first tee time at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Woods' decision to play in the Genesis surprised many players. He'll have to navigate his way up a steep hill to the elevated No. 1 tee at Riviera, as well as 52 steps after making his way off the 18th green. Otherwise, the course is pretty flat. Woods said he hadn't played 18 holes for four straight days this year.

"I think we all wonder how we're going to get up those steps on 18," Justin Rose said. "Saves me going to the gym this week. Yeah, I was surprised, I actually didn't know when to expect to see Tiger, but I did catch a little bit [of] the father and son [at the PNC Championship] and his golf game looks great. He looked impressive there.

"In terms of the important part of can you hit a golf ball, can you get a ball in the hole, all of that seemed to be really in order. But we know that's definitely not the thing he struggles with, right? It's obviously the physical side of putting together four rounds of golf and a really good sign to see him in the field and feeling willing and able to get out here."

Rose knew one way to make it easier for Woods.

"I guess once you're up those stairs the rest of Riv down at the bottom is quite nice and flat," Rose said. "If you can negotiate the walk up to the clubhouse to sign your card, maybe signing for something in the mid-60s will get him up that hill pretty quick."