August 7, 2019 / 10:53 PM / 3 months ago

Tiger admits back is still a challenge ahead of Northern Trust

Tiger Woods addressed the media after playing a modified nine holes Wednesday at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., ahead of the Northern Trust Open and FedEx Cup Playoffs, and reiterated what he’s said all season regarding the state of his game and health: “It’s a challenge.”

FILE PHOTO: Golf - The 148th Open Championship - Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland - July 19, 2019 Tiger Woods of the U.S. on the 18th hole during the second round REUTERS/Ian Walton/File Photo

“I learned a lot last year by playing too much, coming back from my procedure and not knowing what to expect. I pushed it pretty hard and vowed I’d never do that again,” he told reporters.

“And that’s the challenge now because I cut my schedule back, but the problem was the season changed. We have a more condensed season and trying to figure out how to stay sharp, practice and have my back feeling good all the time is a challenge.”

Woods added, “I can’t practice as much as I’d like. I can’t even sniff as much as I used to practice.”

Woods played nine holes on Tuesday with Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Harold Varner III, and said he was “hitting it great,” but he limited his play in Wednesday’s pro-am and admitted he was stiff.

“Some days I’m stiffer than others. Yesterday I was out there hitting it great, driving it out there with Brooksie and DJ, and today I’m stiff. Hopefully I’m not that way tomorrow,” he said.

Woods has played just 12 competitive rounds since his historic win at Augusta National in April. He finished tied for ninth place at The Memorial in June and tied for 21st at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach just two weeks later. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship and British Open. Currently he is 28th in the FedEx Cup standings.

This week marks just the 11th professional event this season for Woods, who is captain of the 2019 U.S. Presidents Cup team. The event is set for Dec. 12-15 at Royal Melbourne in Australia. Eight spots are guaranteed and Woods will have four captain’s picks.

Woods, currently 12th in the Presidents Cup points standings and trying to make the team himself, posted a picture on social media Tuesday of himself surrounded by the top 14 players in the standings, including top-eight players Koepka, Johnson, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay. Also in the photo were Kevin Kisner (16), Patrick Reed (17), Billy Horschel (18) and Kevin Na (20).

Woods said Wednesday that while those faces were likely to make the team, nothing was set in stone.

“I told the guys last night, what’s guaranteed are the top eight after next week. I’m like all of them, all the guys in the room. ... We’re still trying to earn our way on the team,” said Woods.

“So the guys who came last night, it was fantastic to have them there but understand that’s not the team, not yet. There have only been a few guys who have locked up their spots, but in reality, most of the guys who were there are gonna be on the team, but there is no guarantee unless you finish in the top eight after next week.”

Woods will be aiming to tie Sam Snead’s 82-win record when he tees it up Thursday morning at 7:43 a.m. ET alongside Scott Piercy and Wyndham Championship winner J.T. Poston.

—Field Level Media

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