Tiger Woods “forgot how long it takes to play 18 holes walking,” he laughed Tuesday, entering a WGC – Accenture Match Play press conference with an apology for being slightly behind schedule.
That type of quiet humor, along with a calm and confident air, marked Woods’ comments Tuesday at Dove Mountain. He begins his first tournament in eight months on Wednesday.
That hiatus, brought on by knee surgery, and extended by the birth of his son, Charlie, on Feb. 8, was “a blessing in disguise,” according to Woods.
“Both legs are stronger than they’ve ever been,” said Woods. “This ability is something I’ve not had in years - it’s nice to make a swing and not have my bones move.”
Along with the competitive advantages, the rehabilitation process brought Woods some much-needed family time.
“I didn’t realize how much I love being at home around Sam and E, and now Charlie, we had so much fun, so many great times – I’ll miss some of those things,” he said.
But, Woods said, “it feels great to back out in a competitive environment.” He tees off against Brendan Jones at noon Wednesday.
The new Jack Nicklaus Signature course at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain will be “challenging,” Woods said.
“It is a long walk, especially between holes,” the world’s top-ranked golfer said. “The greens are a bit tough - they’re a little severe out there.”
Despite the difficult course, Woods is excited about returning to Southern Arizona.
“It’s great to be here in warm weather,” he said. “I can work on my farmer tan.”
Jokes aside, Woods said he will be nervous, but that shouldn’t be seen as weakness by opponents.
“The day I’m not nervous is the day I quit,” Woods said. “To me nerves are great, that means you care.”
“That’s the greatest thing about it, to feel that rush,” he added.