Tiger Woods did not come out and admit on Wednesday that he might have passed Jack Nicklaus in the all-but-over major championship race had he been more patient in recovering from injuries. But the rehabbing winner of 14 of those prestigious events did concede that he had paid a heavy price for being impatient to recover from a vast array of afflictions during his nearly 20 years on the PGA Tour.
"I’ve played through a lot of injuries, I played through some situations I probably shouldn’t have," Woods said during an afternoon press conference from Bluejack National, the Houston-area course he designed. "I’ve cost myself months and years because of it but that’s what athletes do. We play through pain."
Tiger added a bit of meat to the bare bones of knowledge he dropped earlier in the day on his website, including shooting down rumors that he was hitting drivers (still just chipping and putting). However, the acknowledgement of golf’s worst-kept secret, that he came back too soon from too many bodily traumas, was kind of a big deal.
His assertion came toward the end of a session in which Tiger said he felt "a heck of a lot better" than he did in December, when he glumly observed that anything above and beyond his 79 tour wins and 14 major titles would be "gravy." That grim message sent the golf world into a post-Tiger-era tizzy, though last week’s "progressing nicely" dispatch was more Woods-like in its "everything is awesome" tone.
Progressing nicely. pic.twitter.com/HKnnluR1OW— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) February 24, 2016
Woods' admission that he "won some tournaments I probably shouldn’t have" was likely a reference to the last major he earned -- the 2008 U.S. Open he famously won while playing with a ruptured ACL and a broken leg. He hobbled home from that June event and did not return to competition until the following March.
Most Tiger watchers would agree he tried to come back too soon from his first microdiscectomy in March 2014, when he went missed cut, 69th, withdrawal, and MC in four subsequent events that season. He then struggled through an equally abysmal 2015 campaign that included a couple of breaks and an outlying T17 at the Masters.
The earlier injuries were ones with which Woods was familiar. A nine-month recovery period for a total ACL reconstruction was "normal," said Woods, who is now on the mend from his third surgery in some two years involving nerves in his back.
It may be the sagacity of his 40 years, or perhaps the pain when he has tried to overdo things. But Woods as much as allowed that the only chance he has of regaining some semblance of a winning form, giving chase once again to Jack’s all-time mark, and not landing back on the DL, is to exhibit the patience he lacked over the decades.
"I don’t, I really don’t. I don’t really know," he said about how and when he would know he was ready for a comeback. "There is no timetable."
As that date approaches, though, Woods assured the gathered onlookers -- and those watching his presser on Golf Channel -- he would be in touch.
"When will I know? I'll let you know," Woods quipped.