Displaying a rarely-seen level of candor, Tiger Woods recently opened up about a variety of topics in a wide-ranging interview with Time Magazine’s Lorne Rubenstein.
Woods, who turns 40 later this month, has not played since the Wyndham Championship in August. Two procedures on his back have followed, and speaking earlier this week at the Hero World Challenge Woods ceded that there is no timetable for his return to competitive golf.
Speaking at his recently-opened restaurant in Jupiter, Fla., Woods offered thoughtful insight on a number of topics, both on and off the course.
On the thought of his career already being complete: “Put it this way. It’s not what I want to have happen, and it’s not what I’m planning on having happen. But if it does, it does. I’ve reconciled myself to it. It’s more important for me to be with my kids. I don’t know how I could live with myself not being able to participate in my kids’ lives like that. That to me is special. Now I know what my dad felt like when we’d go out there and play nine holes in the dark.”
On a possible return to competition: “I don’t think I’ll ever be 100 percent healthy, but as close as you can to that point, that would be nice. As long as I don’t have the pain, then I don’t think there would be an issue. I will probably play through a little bit of pain, aches and pains, as you get older, you have more aches and pains.”
On playing through previous injuries: “I’ve paid the price. If you look at the U.S. Open in ’08, I played on no ACL, I’d ruptured my ACL in ’07, but I still won five of the last six tournaments I played that year, and the following year, I played six tournaments, I won four and finished second in the Masters. And so, understand that I can play through it, and I can still win, I can be successful, but along the way I’m just doing damage.”
On his relationship with ex-wife Elin Nordegren: “She’s one of my best friends. We’re able to pick up the phone, and we talk to each other all the time. We both know that the most important things in our lives are our kids. I wish I would have known that back then.”
On his relationship with ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn: “Well, with Lindsey, what was hard is we never had time together. We’re texting each other. It was a great relationship, but it was so hard, when I’m training to do my sport, it takes umpteen hours to do, and I can’t travel, except to my tournaments, because I’m here dedicated to my two kids. … It’s a relationship that was fantastic, but it just can’t work on that level. It just could not work. It was doing an injustice to both of us.”
On his desire as a kid to beat Jack Nicklaus’ records: “OK, here’s the major misconception that people have all gotten wrong. It’s what was posted on my wall, about Jack’s records. It was not the majors, OK. There was one on there. It was the first time he broke 40, the first time he broke 80, the first golf tournament he ever won, first time he ever won the state amateur, first time he won the U.S. Amateur, and the first time he won the U.S. Open. That was it. That was the list. It was all age-related. To me, that was important.”
On determining the greatest player of all time: “You can’t compare eras. You really can’t. It’s like, OK, who’s the better [pro basketball] center: Bill Russell or Shaq? You just can’t say who was the best because the game has changed so much. Jack crossed so many eras because he played for so long, and he was in contention for so long. The same could be said for Sam Snead. How many eras did he play through? He ended up winning, what, at 54, when he won at Greensboro? I think you have to be able to say you’ve played in so many different eras, and I have.”
On his shift in perspective created by fatherhood: “The most important thing, though, is that I get to have a life with my kids. That’s more important than golf … Prior to that, when I didn’t have kids, it would never enter my mind. Are you kidding me? What am I going to do, go bass fishing? No. But now to watch my kids and play sports and to grow up and participate, and even teach them how to become better, oh my God, it gives me so much joy. I can’t imagine not being able to do that as I get older.”
On his chipping woes earlier this year: “I had never seen myself going through a spell that bad. I’ve never lost my short game my entire life. I’ve lost other parts of my game, but I’ve never lost my short game. My short game’s always been my buddy.”
On Medalist, Woods’ home course in Jupiter: “It’s a bunch of dudes who just want to go out there, play golf, smoke cigars and gamble. And post-round, they want to play gin, for hours. And I love going out there in the evening by myself. That’s one of the happiest times I can ever experience.”
On finding peace: “I would have to say that, probably, my only peace has been in between the ropes and hitting the shots.”
On the best year of his career: “I peaked at 11, to be honest with you. I went 36 and 0 that year, never lost a tournament, all in California. And I probably had the cutest girlfriend in all of sixth grade. And I had straight As. No A-minuses. They were all perfect A’s. I peaked at 11. I’ve been trying to get back to that since.”
On legacy: “The greatest thing that could happen is to not be remembered. What I mean by that is, the kids right now, they don’t know that Michael Jordan played. They see a Jumpman [logo] and they think, that’s so cool. … Now, for me, they don’t understand who that is. My learning center, kids go through it and they don’t know who I am. They don’t know what I’ve done. But it’s a safe haven for them to learn and grow.”