Act II of Tiger's comeback set to begin at Pebble BeachFebruary 07, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- In a lot of sports, a 36-year-old with an extensive amount of significant knee and Achilles injuries would at best be entering the twilight of his career. In golf, Tiger Woods is about to begin a second career.
At least that's what he's hoping for after two years of rehabbing his body and his mind.
"Rehabbing and training are two totally different scenarios," said Woods, who makes his PGA TOUR season debut at this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "I haven't been able to train. I haven't been healthy enough.
"I've made huge progress there, hence I can do the things that [swing coach] Sean [Foley] wants me to do with my golf swing."
That's been pretty evident, whether it was at last December's Chevron World Challenge, where Woods' [unofficial] victory was his first anywhere in the world since 2009, or two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, where he finished third.
That's what time does. It heals all.
It also provides insight. Woods is a different player at 36 than he was at 26.
"I think I understand how to get my ball around the golf course better," Woods said.
He also understands his aging body better.
Woods knows he's no longer bullet-proof, that he can't take the pounding he used to when he was younger, which is why he says he underwent a swing change in the first place.
"The more we age, the more time we need to heal," he said. "I don't recover quite as well.
"I know that I'm sore quite often, just about every day when I'm playing with my kids. I don't remember ever being like that. I just have to train smarter, practice smarter."
And play better, which is what he has been able to do since he's been healthy.
The misses haven't been as wide or scattered and the putts have started to drop with more regularity.
Perhaps the biggest sign of progression, however, has been Woods' ability to take what he's been working on from last season to this one.
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He wasn't always able to do that, not in the recent past anyway. When Woods ended 2010 with a playoff loss to Graeme McDowell at the very same Chevron, he went on to record just two top-10s in an injury-riddled 2011 in which he often didn't know where the ball was going to go.
"I didn't go into those breaks feeling good about where my game was," Woods said. "I was still making the changes, still trying to get healthy.
"This time was different. I came out of it healthy. I went into it healthy. I took two weeks off after the World Challenge, didn't touch a club, and after that got right back into it, and boom, almost won a golf tournament."
Now, that's all there is left for Woods to do. His last official victory came at the 2009 BMW Championship.
He won last December, yes, but all it counted for was confidence and proof that Woods is still capable of hitting the kinds of shots we grew accustomed to the first half of his career.
Now comes Act II.
Woods is back to having fun, and a victory here at Pebble Beach, a familiar place to some of his greatest accomplishments, would count. And for much more than an official win, according to Woods.
"My kids are at an age where they want to see daddy on TV," Woods said. "They'll say 'Daddy, are you going to be on TV?' and I'll say I have to play well, and they'll say, 'Well Daddy, can you please play well?"