Tiger Woods returns to the golf course this week for the Northern Trust Open, the first event of the three-tourney FedEx Cup playoffs and the first tournament Woods has played in since the Open Championship. In a brief media session after a Wednesday practice round, Woods reiterated what he’s said all season: this is a different Tiger with different challenges.
“I thought last year I learned a lot about playing too much, coming back from my procedure and not really knowing what to expect,” Woods said. “I pushed it too hard. I’ll never do that again.”
Woods has only played in one non-major event since his Masters victory back in April, the result, he says of the toll that too much golf takes on his back. He’s cut back his schedule significantly in order to focus on major events.
The problem with that is golf’s newly condensed schedule tightens the calendar considerably, not giving him a chance to practice his way into playing shape.
“I can’t practice as much as I’d like. I can’t even sniff as much as I used to practice,” Woods said. “It’s a challenge.”
Woods played nine holes on Tuesday with Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Harold Varner III, then limited his play on Wednesday in a pro-am. Some days, he noted, are better than others; sometimes his back complies, other times it doesn’t.
Woods entered the playoffs in the 28th slot, not surprising given how little he’s played this year, and how poorly he’s played in recent events. He’ll need to remain in the top 70 to advance to the second round of the playoffs, and he’ll need to hold his position inside the top 30 to reach the Tour Championship at East Lake.
The Northern Trust Open begins Thursday morning. Woods tees off at 7:43 a.m. Eastern in one of the earliest groupings.
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