DUBLIN, Ohio – Tiger Woods made a public speech on Tuesday for the first time in nearly two months when he and his friend Justin Thomas conducted a training tour at the Memorial Tournament.
The two played nine opponents at Muirfield Village Golf Club, where Woods will be grouped with Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka for the first two rounds.
The last time we saw Woods playing in public, he and Phil Peyton Manning defeated Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in an exhibition match on May 24 at the Medalist, Woods' home course in South Florida.
Woods last took part in the PGA Tour in February when he finished last at the Genesis Invitational on the Riviera, a tournament that benefits his foundation. He decided to skip the first five events of restarting the COVID-19 PGA Tour to the Memorial this week, a tournament in which he won five times.
“I really thought about the game, trying to figure out if I should play or not,” Woods said after training on Tuesday. “But I just felt it was better to stay home and be safe. I am used to playing with a lot of people around me, or many people have a direct connection with me, and this endangers not only me, but also my friends and family. (I) was just at home, practicing and social distance, and away from a lot of people.
“This is what I looked at and said:“ Well, I'm really not quite happy with this, with this whole idea. Let's first see how it ends, and see how the Tour ended, how they started, and I feel comfortable enough to come back here and play again. I am excited to do this.
“It's very nice to be back,” Woods continued. “I have not played on the tournament site for some time – it has been since February – so for me it was a long time ago. Going out there and playing with JT was a lot of fun. This, of course, is another world, another environment in which we are. To play in such training rounds and watch the Tour develop and start, and not see the fans, it’s just a completely different world. ”
Woods said that while watching tournaments at the restart of the PGA Tour, he looked at golf differently than usual.
“It was more to look at golf, to see how it is now, to see what our immediate future is, our reality and what our foreseeable future will be,” he said. “For some guys, when they first played in the first couple of weeks, everything was different. So that no one screams, no one screams, there is no energy, social distance, no handshakes. ”
Among the questions he asked his peers who played in tournaments was the question: “Where are you going to train? Are you going to work out in the gym? No, you cannot go to the gym. What are you going to do here? Face masks?
“We are trying to figure out all the guidelines, and the guys are trying to figure it out on the fly, and also compete,” he said. “Thus, for most players it was very difficult to find a routine.”
Woods' latest victory came to the Zozo Championship last October. It was his 82nd career victory, which broke Sam Snead’s all-time PGA Tour record. This also came after a long absence in tournament golf for almost two months.
Asked on Tuesday whether he showed that he could win after a long layoff, Woods said: “Well, I would like to say that I am going to win this event. That is my intention. Will it end on Sunday … I hope it will be so. There is no reason why I cannot do it again this week. I just have to go there and do my job and do it. ”
Woods has indicated that he feels better physically than he did long before his last Genesis tournament.
“Physically, I was very tough in LA.” he said. “I did not move so well. (My) back was not completely free. It was cold. I didn’t hit the ball hard, I didn’t play very well, and therefore, I finished dead last.
“After five months, I was able to train a lot. I feel much better than then. "I was able to train and concentrate on returning to speed and returning to the speed of the tournament, since I moved to the Match and have been able to progress since then."
Woods was not available after the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and on Tuesday he was asked if he felt a “positive difference” in terms of the problems of racial injustice that plagued the country after protest and awareness.
“I think change is fantastic,” Woods said. “So far we are making changes without harming the innocent, and unfortunately this has happened. I hope this does not happen in the future. But movement and change is fantastic. This is how society develops. This is how we grow. This is how we move forward. This is how we have justice.
“Unfortunately, we have lost innocent people along this path, and I hope we will not lose any more in the future, as we move to a much better place in the social sphere.”