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Tiger Woods unsure if he will ever play competitive golf again

Tiger Woods reacts on the 10th hole during

Tiger Woods reacts on the 10th hole during the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Feb. 2, 2017. Credit: AP / Kamran Jebreili

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Tiger Woods said Wednesday that he is optimistic about his future as a golfer yet totally unsure if he has one.

When asked during a news conference for the Presidents Cup whether there’s a chance he will never play competitively again, Woods said, “Yeah, definitely. I don’t know what my future holds for me.”

He dearly wants to play competitively when and if his back and his surgeon will let him. For now, he is at the Presidents Cup as an assistant captain, which he considers the next best thing.

“The pain is gone,” Woods said in his first appearance since an arrest for driving under the influence on Memorial Day, “but I don’t know what my golfing body is going to be like because I haven’t hit a golf shot yet.”

He meant a full golf shot. Woods repeated what he had written in a blog post last week, that he has been hitting 60-yard wedge shots. “I’m hitting it really straight,” he said, then after a pause, added, “It’s a joke. Smile, OK?”

Woods was all smiles on the podium, where he sat with seven other captain’s assistants from the U.S. and International teams, which begin their four-day match Thursday at Liberty National Golf Club. But almost all of the session with reporters revolved around Woods, who is coming off serious back surgery and medication dependence that required therapy.

“Well, I enjoy being out here with the guys. I always have, whether it was as a player for many years or two vice-captainships in a row,” he said, adding, “I’m feeling great ... 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.”

There is no telling if the 41-year-old ever will be able to play full-time, let alone return to being the greatest golfer on Earth. Still, he wants to keep trying.

“I think it’s fun,” he said. “You know, I’ve been competing in golf tournaments since I was, what, four years old. From pitch, putt and drive to playing major championships. It’s always fun to me.”

Having told in the past stories of being taunted as a child because of his race, he knows the sports world is roiling, answering a question about protests by saying, “Obviously, there’s a lot of unrest right now, whether it’s political or racial in this country right now. And that’s something that has happened before 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 the near future, but for perpetuity.”

Being here is part of his personal healing, as well as a huge lift to young players who, as fellow assistant captain Jim Furyk said, “grew up idolizing him” and possibly chose pro golf because of him. Another assistant captain, Fred Couples, said, “Having Tiger with the team now is pretty much the same as if he was playing.”

Brooks Koepka, who was seen apparently taking putting lessons from Woods on Tuesday, said they weren’t really lessons. They were just conversations about each other’s lives. “We’d love to see him back, playing,” Koepka said.

Daniel Berger, a Presidents Cup rookie, said: “He has really been into the role of assistant captain. He’s the greatest player of all time, so when he talks, you listen.”

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