He didn't say by how much, but Tiger Woods breaking 50 in his first nine holes after going through a disc replacement procedure is quite an achievement.
He thinks he has realistic goals for this week, his first competitive attempt since the operation, but perhaps his performance expectations at the Quicken Loans National are ahead of his current skill level. The only way to find out is to tee it up.
One of Woods' favorite expressions comes to mind when he revealed his path to recovery. This time it was "a process," and it's not over yet.
"The whole progression was putting first. Anybody who has had this procedure done, you can putt the next day," Woods explained.
The problem was he could not bend over to get the ball out of the hole so he created a work-around in the practice area in his yard.
"We had normal-size holes in my back yards, and I sand-filled them. So I knew if the putt went in or not, but I never had to bend over and get balls out of the hole. We did that for a couple of months," he explained.
He gradually added chipping and pitching, all the while working with doctors and trainers to make sure that he was not damaging anything in his back.
"Then we added, basically about ten yards every day to two days depending on how I felt," he said. That's where he was in mid-May.
He'd talk with his physical therapists and doctors, then they'd make a decision about how far he could hit the next day or next couple of days. Some days they would not let him hit farther or add another club, making him wait a day or two.
"That's how it went to the point where I was out there hitting drivers a couple weeks ago, and then started playing golf," he explained. "I wanted to knock off a little bit of rust on the range before I actually went out there and tried not to embarrass myself on the golf course, and I was able to do that, got some holes in."
Because of the stress that sitting puts on the back, he rode standing up in the back of the golf cart, just like Fred Couples sometimes does, which Tiger pointed out.
"I was able to get in more holes because of that," he said about his cart-riding. "I broke 50 for nine, first time, just like I was when I was three! So I'm sneaking up on it. My prime's coming up."
Woods was all in on recovery, including his diet, which he said was a special anti-inflammatory one, and cold baths, which he said "was no fun but you've got to do it."
He admitted that he has learned patience, and to pay attention to what his body tells him.
"Listening to my body, that's one thing that I have learned, stubbornly, over the years, that I have to do this," he said. "Particularly with this injury, this is very different than pushing through my knee injuries in the past. I could play through it. I just couldn't play through this. Nerve impingement, as I said, it's no joke."
He's low on reps and probably will not go all out on shots this week.
"I was joking with Cookie [John Cook]—Cookie just came back from breaking his back, and he was actually hitting it further than I was," Woods explained. "I'm out there pumping 8-irons 135 and that's all I had; that was frustrating there for a little while." However, his distance is returning.
The back problem began initially with a twinge at Barclays last year.
"I was not able to practice. I was not able to spend the time out there. I was not able to do the work that I'm accustomed to doing," he said about the injury.
Woods admitted he ordinarily would much rather spend time on the range than play.
"I like to do a lot of work, and tried to spend a lot of time chip-and-putt, but actually that was the worst thing for me to do because I was more bent over there," he explained. He recalled seeing Fred Couples warming up at Sherwood CC at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. "He would warm up with his 5-wood, it was his first club he would warm up with because he couldn't bend over and hit a sand wedge yet. I got to that point, where I would much rather just tee up drivers and hit drivers."
After Barclays, it was week-to-week until he got to the point where he could hardly get out of bed.
"There were weeks where I just couldn't move," he added. "And then it started progressively deteriorating from there and it got to a point where I had to pull out of an event and struggle through the last round I played in."
Surgery became the only route left.
"That nerve impingement, that pain that I was feeling going down my leg was gone. I've heard numerous people talk about it, and I've had people come up to me and say they had the same procedure and got their life back and that's basically how I felt," he said.
According to Woods, he's more than on the mend. He's ready.
"I've got my numbers back, and this week especially, since it's going to be warm all week, I won't have any problem staying loose," he added.
His very short-term goal is playing four rounds this week. His next goal is the British Open, then the PGA Championship. His medium-term goal is The FedEx Playoffs. And we all know his long-term goal is 19 majors.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.
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