JERSEY CITY, New Jersey – Tiger Woods, surveying the social divides of the United States that spilled into the sports landscape this week, voiced a hope on Wednesday that “things can be healed”.
The 14-time major golf champion – battling back from a fourth back surgery this year in hopes of resurrecting his competitive career – is serving this week as an assistant to US captain Steve Stricker at the Presidents Cup.
Stricker said on Tuesday that his team had opted against any sort of national anthem demonstration of the kind launched in the National Football League and harshly criticised by US President Donald Trump.
As players, coaches and even some owners across the league responded to Trump’s barbs with shows of solidarity, Woods was asked what he made of the demonstrations.
“Obviously there’s a lot of unrest right now, whether it’s political or racial,” the 41-year-old said. “And that’s something that obviously has happened before in the past, and it’s happening in America right now.
“So hopefully things can be healed. We can progress as a nation and come together, not just only in the near future, but for perpetuity.”
Woods, still battling back from back surgery in April, said he has “no idea what my future holds” even as he strives for a return to competitive golf.
The 14-time major champion admitted that earlier this year he wasn’t even sure he’d be able to fulfil his role as a captain’s assistant on the US team.
Wonder what the official team cabins look like? Check the inside tour 👇 pic.twitter.com/SK2PPrsABT
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to be here, because I couldn’t ride in a cart. The bouncing hurt too much,” said Woods.
“That’s all gone now, which is fantastic,” added Woods, who said last week his doctors had cleared him to begin swinging a cub again.
But it’s still a far cry from preparing for a return to competition.
“First things first,” Woods said. “Get my health organised. Make sure the pain goes away. Then (I’m) just waiting for what my surgeon says.
“I’m still training, I’m getting stronger. But I certainly don’t have my golf muscles trained because obviously I’m not doing anything golf-related.”
Woods last played in a tournament at the Dubai Desert Classic in January – withdrawing with back spasms.
He was arrested for driving under the influence near his home in Florida in May. Toxicology reports revealed he had a variety of prescription drugs in his system at the time.
Woods said he welcomed the chance to serve as an assistant to US captain Stricker, alongside fellow assistants Fred Couples, Davis Love and Jim Furyk – and to lend a hand where possible to young players like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
He played a similar role at the Ryder Cup last year.
“I enjoy being out here with the guys,” said Woods, a 79-time winner on the US PGA Tour.
“It’s nice to be out here with some great assistant captains and our captain. I’ve played Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches with all of them, and to be out with these young guys – we’re going to have a lot of fun this week.”
As for his own progress, Woods said, it remains a matter of wait and see.
“The pain’s gone, but I don’t know what my golfing body is going to be like, because I haven’t hit a golf shot yet,” he said.
“So that’s going to take time to figure that out, and to figure out what my capabilities are going forward – and there’s no rush.”