Tiger Woods, no longer one of the big hitters in professional golf, still is capable of taking the long view. He insisted Tuesday that he does still have a future and every tournament, including the PGA Championship this week, is a step toward that.
Woods knows that he has to have very high finishes in a hurry just to qualify for The Barclays and the rest of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, but he said, "I'm not looking at it like that at all, actually. I'm just trying to get my game better for years to come.
"If you would have asked me right after I had my back surgery last year what the rest of my career would look like, I didn't really have much of an answer. I was hoping to get back out here. But now I'm back out here at a level at which I can practice and play again," he said at his news conference before the PGA Championship, which begins at Whistling Straits here Thursday.
"Also I have a totally different new swing. As I said a couple weeks ago, it's a perfect storm. Surgery, rehabbing and then trying to learn a whole new pattern. It couldn't have been more complicated. But I'm here now in this position and as far as my tournament future, if I play well, I play well. I'll play in more events. If I don't, then I have more time to practice and get ready for the following events, for the next season and what some of the things I do on a global level."
Despite his slump and his seven-year major championship drought, he is excited about other things on his plate, including the opening Monday of Harbourside Place, his sports-themed restaurant in Florida. "I've been involved in every little step," he said. "It's something to be able to do something in the Jupiter area. I built my dream home there."
Yet, his home used to be at the top of leader boards at events such as the PGA, which has a special place on his resume. It was the first major he won after his dynamic 1997 Masters triumph and it meant a lot because he waited more than two years and endured the growing pains of a swing change. The PGA is the only major he has twice won back-to-back, 1999-2000 and 2006-2007. And it was at the PGA that he first looked vulnerable. Y.E. Yang overtook him at the finish in 2009, something that never had happened to him before in a major.
There is no debating one thing about Woods as he enters the season's final major, having missed the cut in two of the previous three: Expectations are awfully low. This season, he has been in nine PGA Tour events and made only five cuts.
He is not as long off the tee as he once was, "relatively speaking." He averages 300.4 yards on his drives, which is solid but only around 25th best on tour (he has not played enough rounds to qualify for the official statistics).
Golf enthusiasts all over the world offer suggestions. He was asked how many he has followed. "There's not one, I swear. Not one. I've [always] relied on friends and family and people that I trust and who are close to me," he said. "I haven't done it in the past and I think I've had a pretty good career so far."
He made it a point to say it just that way, so it did not sound like the past tense.