TULSA, Okla. – On Tuesday, when Tiger Woods spoke publicly for the first time since his stunning return to the Masters tournament last month, the expected topic was his ongoing recovery after the near-fatal 2021 car crash. Woods did say that his reconstructed right leg felt stronger when he was preparing for this week’s PGA Championship, which starts Thursday at Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club.
But perhaps for the first time in any of the press conferences in the Woods more than 30 years in the public eye, he devoted almost as much time to discussing his longtime rival, Phil Mickelson, as he did to himself. And Woods did not usually speak flattering words about Mickelson.
Woods emphasized his distance from Mickelson, who has not defended his PGA Championship title and has not played since he made irritating remarks in February in support of the Saudi-backed golf league, which he hopes will rival PGA.
Although Mickelson has personally contacted Woods in the past during his fights, which sparked a sensational scandal over marital infidelity in 2009 and a car crash on a Los Angeles area boulevard last year, Woods said Tuesday that he did not contact Mickelson.
“I did not get along with him; “I did not talk to him,” Woods said. “A lot of it is not related, I think, to personal issues. These were our views on how the tour should and could be held, and what players are playing and how we are playing for it. I have a completely different position on this, so no, I do not. ”
Woods added: “We miss him being here. I mean, it’s a big draw for a game of golf. He just takes his time and we all wish him the best when he comes back. “
But after acknowledging that the social media landscape was escalating and rapidly polarizing the dispute between the PGA Tour and the separatist league, Woods said: “And the views that the film expressed about the tour and what the tour meant to all of us. Polarization as well. “
Mickelson has asked to be released from the PGA Tour to play outside London next month at the inaugural event of a new round of golf, LIV Golf. The PGA Tour rejected Michelson’s request and any request from its members, and he threatened to suspend or otherwise discipline players who play in alternate tour events. In February, Mickelson sparked a flurry of criticism after he admitted that Saudi Arabia had a “horrible record of human rights” – including the murder of a Washington Post journalist – but said he was still talking and helping the new tour because it was . “Opportunity once in a lifetime” pressure on the PGA tour. Earlier this year, Mickelson accused the PGA tour of “shocking greed.” He later said his remarks were “reckless”.
When asked by Woods on Tuesday how his dispute with Michelson could be resolved, Woods replied: “I do not know if he should settle it. I understand different views, but I believe in heritage. I believe in big championships. I believe in great events, in comparison with historical figures of the past. There is a lot of money here. The tour is growing. But it’s just like any other sport, you have to go and earn. “
When he did not discuss Mickelson on Tuesday, Woods’ rebuilt right foot looked much stronger than it did last month when he tried to climb all the hills at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia during the Masters. In Tulsa, during a training round in Woods Half jogged up the steep slope.
Asked how much he had improved in the last five weeks of physical rehabilitation due to the serious injuries sustained during the 2021 crash, Woods smiled.
“The first mountain I climbed was Everest,” he said. “So, yes, I’m better off than I played at the end of the tournament.” He added: “I still have difficult days and things will not be as easy as people think. Still, I’m better – more positive days. ”
But it seems that Woods, previously known for his almost uninterrupted practice, especially his patience, laughed when asked if he could train enough now.
“Do you train a lot?” “No, I do not do that anymore,” he replied. “Bent for a long time, hit the bouquet of branches as before? No, it does not happen – not with your back as it is. “
However some things have not changed. Woods would never have appeared at the event if he did not believe he could be the first to finish. This decision is not wavering.
“I feel I can – really,” Woods replied when asked if he could win. “I just have to go and do it. It starts on Thursday and I will be ready.
John Rahm, who is the world’s top-ranked golfer and also on the field this week, said he was not surprised that Woods wanted to win every tournament.
“Hey, the world wants him to win,” Rahm said with a smile.
What will be spectacular in the group is that Rory McIlroy will play in Thursday’s first round with Woods and Jordan Spitt, who have won all major golf titles except the PGA Championship. McIlroy is looking forward to a renewal of Woods, who started strongly at last month’s Masters but has disappeared in the last two rounds.
“About six weeks have passed since August?” Asked McIlroy. “Six weeks is a long time to recover from that week and then recover again.”