Tiger Woods said yesterday he is excited about his future prospects, despite giving the strongest indication yet that he will miss next month's US Open.
On the day he lost his world No.1 ranking to Adam Scott, the American made his first public appearance since back surgery on March 31 at Congressional Country Club, where the Quicken Loans National - which benefits his foundation - will be played from June 26-29.
Seven weeks to the day after undergoing an operation to relieve the pain caused by a pinched nerve, Woods revealed his recovery was "slow and tedious" and that he was still unable to hit full shots.
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With the year's second major championship just over three weeks away, the 38-year-old admitted he did not know how much longer that situation would remain.
"As of right now I can chip and putt but that's it," said Woods. "We're just going to take it slowly. I don't know how many more weeks I'm going to be at this pace, but at least I have something. As far as full swings and that timetable of where I'm playing, I don't know. One of the hardest parts is that the pain I was feeling before the surgery has gone, so it was hard not to do too much with my kids, because they are very active and like playing sport and so do I.
"Once I get to the point where I can start playing and start ramping things up is generally when I start getting antsy about getting out here and competing, but post-surgery I am really not because I know I just can't do it."
Asked how long he would need to become competitive once given the all-clear, Woods added: "I don't know when I come back and start ramping it up how far I am away from being explosive. Do I still have that capability of hitting the ball like that?
"Once I start feeling like that, I don't think it would take more than a couple of weeks to where I can get out there and feel like I can compete. The great thing about what I've done so far and after all my previous surgeries is worked on my short game. Once I start competing, if I start spraying it all over the lot, at least my short game's solid."
Injuries have now kept Woods out of five majors since he won his 14th in 2008 at the US Open. Knee surgery following that victory led to an eight-month lay-off and caused him to miss the Open and PGA championships.
In 2011 he missed the US Open and Open Championship due to knee and Achilles injuries, while this year's back surgery meant he missed the Masters for the first time in his career. That cast further doubt on his ability to surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles, but Woods was bullish about his prospects.
"The only doubts I had were prior to the surgery. I couldn't function. I've had knee surgeries in the past and, yeah, I was hurting going into it, but I was functioning. Right before this surgery I couldn't do much. Forget about playing golf at the highest level - I couldn't get out of bed.
"Before the surgery I didn't think I would have much of a playing career if I felt like this, but now I've had the procedure I am excited about what the prospects hold. I am excited about my career."