Tiger Woods is in a familiar place: extensive rehabilitation.
That was the gist of his comments in a brief interview with Golf Digest, the first he has done since being involved in a serious one-car crash in Southern California on Feb. 23 that left him hospitalized for nearly a month.
“This has been an entirely different animal,” Woods said of his crash injuries. “I understand more of the rehab processes because of my past injuries, but this was more painful than anything I have ever experienced.”
Woods declined to answer a question about whether he hoped to play golf again.
Woods was recovering from a Dec. 23 microdiscectomy, his fifth back procedure and one that left doubts about whether he would be able to return in time for the Masters.
But golf has become a secondary concern for the 15-time major champion as he had severe right leg injuries in a crash in which he was deemed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to be speeding when he crossed over onto the wrong side of the road and eventually struck a tree at a speed in excess of 70 mph.
The sheriff’s department said there was no sign that Woods was impaired while driving and did not press charges.
The injuries that were disclosed by doctors at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center were comminuted open fractures to both his tibia and fibula bones in his right leg, both of which required immediate surgery.
He was transferred to another hospital before being allowed to return to his South Florida home in mid-March to continue rehab.
There has been little information released since. Woods posted a photo on April 23 of him on crutches with a cast on his lower right leg while with his dog in his backyard. Another photo surfaced last week with him out of the cast but with a compression sock on his left leg.
“My physical therapy has been keeping me busy,” he said. “I do my routines every day and am focused on my No. 1 goal right now: walking on my own. Taking it one step at a time.”
Woods is familiar with such routines. In addition to the back surgeries, he’s had five knee surgeries. One preceded his 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines where the tournament returns next month. Another followed — a complete ACL reconstruction which meant he missed nine months of action.
A winner of 82 PGA Tour events, Woods, 45, has been on the minds of many. Players such as Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have acknowledged visiting him. Rickie Fowler said he watched the first round of the Masters with Woods at his Jupiter, Florida home. “It’s been incredible,” Woods said. “I have had so much support from people both inside and outside of golf which means so much to me and has helped me tremendously.”