Tiger Woods has far more to worry about this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship than a sore back.
The No. 1 player in the world said his back feels better after withdrawing from the final round of the Honda Classic on Sunday following 13 holes. He has taken precautionary measures to ensure another flare-up doesn’t occur, but focusing on his back might have prevented him from doing research on what probably will be his biggest challenge this week — the redesigned Blue Monster Course at Trump National Doral Resort.
Woods said he had not played the course since it reopened and would walk around with his caddie, Joe LaCava, on Wednesday afternoon to get a feel for the layout and the speed of the greens. LaCava has walked around the property and taken notes, but Woods has had a tough time wrapping his head around some of the changes without seeing them in person.
Although he said there is a basic strategy in place for the week based on the notes and some other books about the course, Woods said that concept was subject to change after getting out there Wednesday.
“I’ve got no idea about what that golf course holds out there except for what is on video,” Woods said. “Joey and I were working through the book [Tuesday] and came up with kind of a general plan about how we might attack the golf course, but we need to get out here.”
In the aftermath of the withdrawal, Woods said he has not taken any full swings since Sunday, working only on chipping and putting to make sure he still has the touch needed to execute delicate shots. This approach has worked for him in the past, including two years ago when he pulled out of the Cadillac Championship and went on to win two weeks later at the Bay Hill Invitational after not hitting any full shots.
With the Masters a little more than a month away, Woods said it’s more important for him to be healthy enough to practice and that competitive rounds, although important, are not necessarily an indicator of success.
“When I came back from the surgery that I had in ’08 after the Masters … I didn’t play competitive golf and I was still able to win the [U.S.] Open,” Woods said. “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.”
It is all part of managing a back issue that came to light at last year’s Barclays, when he was forced to the ground in pain on multiple occasions after hitting shots. He was able to soldier on and finish in a tie for second at that tournament, but the pain was unbearable at last week’s Honda Classic. Although he has played through injuries in the past, Woods said a back issue is difficult to overcome because it affects your swing unlike injuries to the knee.
“When I had my injuries over the years, it was always after impact,” he said. “So I can do my job and deliver the club and deliver the final moment to the ball and hit the shot I want. It’s just going to hurt like hell afterwards.
“[A back injury] affects the downswing, follow-through, and it was getting so tight that I felt like I couldn’t move.”
Woods has undergone treatment every day this week to calm down the spasms and keep the back loose enough for him to swing a golf club. He said he does not expect to be hesitant at all for Thursday’s opening round when he tees off with Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson at 12:39 p.m.
“My treatments have been fantastic,” he said. “It’s got me to a point where I can do this [Wednesday], and [Thursday] I’ll be able to hit more full shots and go all-out.”