Narashino, Japan, Oct 21 (AFP/APP): Tiger Woods said Monday his fitness was ahead of schedule after arthroscopic knee surgery, and dropped a heavy clue he might use one of his four Presidents Cup captain’s picks on himself.
“I’m probably a week early. My season had ended a little bit earlier than I had expected it,” the 15-time major winner told reporters at Narashino Country Club near Tokyo.
“I had the procedure a little bit early and got ahead of it,” he added.
Woods is in Japan this week to play in the US PGA Tour’s inaugural Zozo Championship, a $9.75 million event that is the second tournament of an almost $30 million Asian swing.
He then intends to round off his year by playing in the Hero World Challenge on December 4, before going to Australia to captain Team USA in the Presidents Cup which begins on December 13.
“I thought that I had enough time to rehab it correctly and be ready for this event, be ready for Hero, and I’m going to Australia either way whether I’m playing or not,” Woods said.
“I had it done and, as I said, it’s been nice to be able to squat down and read putts and I started going at it full speed again.”
Woods, who completed a remarkable return from years of injury and personal problems to win the US Masters in April, said his knee had been giving him more pain as the year wore on.
“It progressively got worse and got to the point where it was affecting even reading putts,” the 43-year-old Woods said.
Woods has a large depth of talent from which to make his four captains picks ahead of the match against Ernie Els’s International team at Royal Melbourne.
He admitted it hasn’t been easy. “I’ve been pretty consumed by it,” he said, adding his return to fitness made it more likely that he would use one of his wildcards on himself.
– ‘Tall order’ –
“It made me more hopeful that I could play this week, play Hero and play Australia,” said Woods, who has dropped one place to number 10 in Monday’s new world rankings.
“The way I was feeling towards the middle part of the year, it was going to be a tall order to be able to do it all.”
If Woods burns one of his picks on himself that leaves him the difficulty of choosing three players from the likes US Open champion, Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner and Jordan Spieth, who showed a return to form at the CJ Cup in Korea which ended Sunday.
All except newlywed Fowler, who is on honeymoon, are playing in Asia over the next two weeks. Woods has to nominate his side directly after next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
“I’ve been able to communicate with all the eight (already qualified) guys who they want on the team and who they think that will fit on the team,” he said.
Woods also reiterated he wanted to come back to Japan next year to represent the US at the 2020 Olympics.
“I would love to play in an Olympic Games,” he said.
“Over the years, having friends compete in the Olympics, seeing golf be part of the Olympics, it would be an honour to represent my country in an Olympic Games.
“Hopefully next year I can have a good year and qualify.”
Before all that, however, he was taking part in a Skins Challenge on Monday afternoon against Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama to kick off Zozo Championship week.