Doral, Fla. — Tiger Woods, looking fresh, relaxed and friendly, met with the media for a health update before going out to walk the new TPC Doral Blue Monster golf course.
“It’s been a long couple of days of just treatment nonstop, trying to get everything calmed down, first of all, get all the inflammation out,” Woods said about his recently injured back. It is not the first time he has had back issues. According to Woods, the initial occurrence was when he was in college; the most recent, last weekend.
Since withdrawing during the back nine last Sunday at the Honda Classic, in addition to medical attention, Woods has chipped, putted and hit balls no more than 60 yards. He said he was doing that to maintain his feel for the short-game shots that he is so famous for creating.
Woods is not concerned about needing to play more competitive rounds between now and the upcoming Masters. He explained how he was able to overcome his previous worst-case situation, which was in 2008.
“I didn’t play any competitive golf (after The Masters in 2008), and I was able to win the (U.S.) Open,” he explained. The reason was that he practiced his chipping and putting. “It’s more important to keep my feels and making sure I can have my own feels I can call upon, and that comes from practice.”
However, the back pain is completely different than the knee pain at the U.S. Open in 2008.
“I could deliver the club to however I wanted on the golf ball,” Woods said about the 2008 knee pain. “This (back pain) was different because it affects downswing, follow-through, and it was getting so tight that I felt like I couldn’t move.”
He said that he was unable to twist in his backswing last Sunday.
“I was just dumping it towards the top to try to get my momentum so I could hit the ball,” he explained. “I said this is absurd. I’m going to be hitting it a hundred yards either way right now.”
Rather than make things worse, Woods withdrew. In the meantime, Woods' caddie Joe LaCava has walked the TPC Doral Blue Monster course and brought Woods yardage books, which the two of them have studied.
After answering questions for 30 minutes, Woods headed out to see the course changes in person and to hit some sand shots and chips so he would know what to expect from bunkers and around the greens.
McIlroy Finds Positives
Rory McIlroy has rebounded from his loss last Sunday at the Honda Classic and said that though it was not the outcome he wanted, he took positives from it.
“I was up there in putting in the statistical categories. I drove the ball really well,” he said. “I was just disappointed with how I played coming down the stretch.”
It was McIlroy’s third stroke-play event this year, and he has contended in all of them. Regarding his play last week, he felt that he was just not sufficiently committed to each shot on the back nine all four days. However, he still recalls the quality of his 5-wood into the 18th green on Sunday.
“It’s probably the best I’ve hit under pressure.” He didn’t mean last week. He meant ever.
McIlroy said he does not expect to win every week, but he expects to play well enough to contend.
“If you keep giving yourself those chances, then hopefully learn from the mistakes, then you’re going to eventually walk through the door and win, and then when you get into the habit of it, it becomes a bit easier,” he explained about the difference between coming close and winning. “Everyone knows that I didn’t do that enough last year at all, and I‘ve started this year better because I’ve been in contention every time that I’ve teed it up,” he added.
McIlroy predicts higher scores at the new Blue Monster at TPC Doral, which he says will favor long, high-ball hitters.
“You’ve got to hit it long around this place now to take advantage of the par fives, some of the carries over water,” he said. “And the guys that hit it long and hit it higher are going to have an advantage because the greens are so firm.”
He said the scores won’t be 20-under par. They are more likely to be in low double digits.
The combination of firm greens and the wind, which typically comes in off the Miami coast in the afternoon, will provide treacherous conditions on a course made longer and harder by redesign.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from theUSGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.