The last time Tiger Woods competed on the PGA Tour, he shot 77 to finish dead last in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.
That was February 16.
A lot, of course, has changed since then, both on and off the golf course.
This week, Woods makes his first competitive appearance since the game – like pretty much every other facet of life – was thrown into turmoil by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He gets his bid for a sixth Memorial Tournament victory underway on Thursday in the company of current world No.1 Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka.
Ahead of that, a trim-looking Tiger met (virtually) with the media for a wide-ranging chat. Here are the big takeaways…
Physically, he’s feeling a whole lot better
At the Genesis Invitational, Woods was bedevilled by a back issue, which kept him out of subsequent pre-lockdown eevents. Thankfully, he says he’s in much better shape now. “I feel so much better than I did then,” he said. “I've been able to train and concentrate on getting back up to speed and back up to tournament speed.”
He feels so good, in fact, he’s expecting to win
Woods is a five-time winner of the Memorial Tournament but a win this week would have added significance as it would see him set a new record for most career wins on the PGA Tour, a record he current shares with Sam Snead. But after five months on the sidelines, how does he rate his chances of victory this week? “I would like to say that I'm going to win the event,” he said. “That's my intent going into every event. There's no reason why I can't do it again this week. I've just got to go out there and do my work and make that happen.”
He has been worried about COVID
The PGA Tour will play its sixth event this week since it resumed from its coronavirus-enforced hiatus. Woods admitted that concerns about safety deterred him from returning before now. “I did consider playing, trying to figure out if I should play or not,” he said. “But I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe. I'm used to playing with lots of people around me or having lots of people have a direct line to me, and that puts not only myself in danger but my friends and family,”
He’s been VERY impressed by Bryson
Bryson DeChambeau has been the talk of the game since the PGA Tour resumed from its COVID-19 lockdown and it turns out Tiger, like everybody else, has been hugely impressed by his big-hitting. “What Bryson has done is no easy task,” he said. “He's got to put in the time and has put in the reps, and he's figured it out. He's gotten stronger, faster, bigger, and has created more speed. But more importantly, let's look at the fact that he's hitting it as straight as he is. That's part of the most difficult thing to do. The further you hit it, the more the tangent goes more crooked, more along this line. So the fact that he's figured that out and has been able to rein in the foul balls to me has been equally as impressive as his gains off the tee distance-wise.”
He spent lockdown like the rest of us
Woods revealed that, whilst the PGA Tour was in lockdown, he spent a lot of time playing tennis with his kids at home in Florida. He also watched lots of TV and “read a lot of books”. In case you’re wondering, his favourite author is Dean Koontz, a fellow Californian who specialises in “suspense thrillers” and horror.
He agrees with the decision to the postpone the Ryder Cup
“A Ryder Cup without fans is not really a Ryder Cup,” said the 44-year-old. He also revealed that he hasn’t considered the prospect of captaining the US in the 2023 match in Italy (by which time he’ll be almost 48.