Alert: Tiger Woods is sort of, maybe, kind of trying to grow a beard. And members of the media could be overheard scoffing at it. No respect, I tell ya', no respect...
During his Tuesday afternoon press conference from inside the AT&T National Media Center, the fourteen-time Major Champion expressed that while his recovery from injury is going well, he remains unwilling to set any form of a timetable in regard to a return to golf. Woods was quick to admit that he knew there existed a 50-50 chance of further damaging his still-healing knee and Achilles tendon when he chose to participate in the Players Championship in May. After re-injuring both areas during his first nine holes, Woods was forced to withdraw from The Players. He has played neither a competitive nor practice round since. Still, he was nice enough to drop into Newtown Square and help promote this week's tournament.
What we asked Tiger, practice round anecdotes and pictures from inside the Aronimink Golf Club after the jump…
Believing his own stubbornness has cost him valuable time and health, Tiger insisted that he will not make the same mistake of "rushing back too soon" during this particular rehabilitation. As such, Woods' participation in next month's British Open remains a mystery even to him.
As for his progress, Woods traversed the grounds yesterday without crutches or a walking boot, and claimed he is no longer using either at any point in the day. Instead, he's been in the gym working on regaining the strength and "explosiveness" he needs to play golf at the level to which he's accustomed.
"We're in the gym every day, most of the time two times, sometimes three times a day, and it's the whole chain. It's not just the leg, it's the whole body," said Woods. "We're testing [the leg] every day to see what it feels like...And each day it's gotten better. We haven't had any setbacks, which has been good, but still, it's not as explosive or as strong as I'd like it to be."
In terms of practice, Tiger clarified that the only golf balls he has hit since May have been those struck with his putter. As such, we hopped in to ask him about the state of his game prior to the injury and where he thinks it will be moving forward.
The700Level: "Tiger, prior to the injury, the talk was mostly about you implementing new swing changes. At the time, you kept saying you were 'close' to putting it all together. How close were you prior to the injury and how much has this set you back for when you are ready to hit balls again?"
Tiger Woods: "Well, I was close to putting it all together, but I didn't have the reps. That's going on now. I haven't had the reps. The only thing I've been able to do is work on it mentally, which as people have already proven, and scientifically has been proven is how you get better anyways, but then I also need the physical reps. [Swing coach Sean Foley] and I, we've worked on a game plan of what I need to do when I come back and progression I need to make, and I just can't wait to be able to do it, to try and actually implement all those changes and put it together and then come out there and do it. That's the fun part. I just need to get to that point."
Unfortunately, due to time and demand, we were unable to ask him a follow-up, as it's still sort of puzzling me as to how one works on their golf swing "mentally." Oh well, I guess that's why he has fourteen majors and I spend time blaming my clubs.
As for those actually playing in the tournament, practice rounds on the PGA Tour are shockingly awesome, at least for the gallery. Since the bulk of the crowds won't be pouring in until the tournament's official start on Thursday, fans can walk nearly anywhere unencumbered and even interact with the pros during their work on the course. For example, Chris DiMarco, a veteran and three-time winner on the tour, told us he hit a four-iron of the 218-yard, par-3 14th tee.
We asked, he told. Say what you want about golf, but it's rare to have that kind of access to professional athletes and have them be so overwhelmingly cordial toward those in attendance. The signing of autographs is actually quite the big deal on the tour, and a responsibility enough the pros take seriously. So next time a frustrated power forward spits on your kid, think about getting them interested in golf.
Plus, you should see the gear these guys fool around with. The practice green is surrounded by dozens of every model putter currently manufactured (picture below), and the driving range is stocked with different golf balls from different manufacturers. Now, that might not sound like a big deal, but these aren't your ordinary range balls we're talking about here with a Titleist logo stamped on the side. No, these guys are pounding brand new Pro-V1s right off the range, while the rest of us slapping around decade-old scraped and scratched yellow rocks off artificial mats in need of repair. Yes, yes, I'm blaming the equipment again.
Anyway, for those of you planning on making your way to Aronimink this weekend, the Smucker's "Uncrustable" appears your cheapest option in terms of food ($2.50), while the Morton's Steak sandwich remains the most alluring (if you have to ask, you can't afford it). On the beverage front, unless you can find shade, beer remains a dicey proposition ($6.50 and up).
If you keep scrolling, you'll see were able to snag some pretty cool pictures of the grounds at Aronimink. Thanks to Jonathan Burns for being handy with the camera.
We'll be out at the AT&T National all week and checking in with reports. The tournament officially begins Thursday morning. The gates will open at 6:30 a.m. and the first tee shot is scheduled for 7:10 a.m. This will be the last PGA Tour stop in the Philadelphia area until the playing of the 113th United States Open at Merion in 2013. Enjoy yourselves.