Washington - Playing in the Ryder Cup will be the
culmination of an amazing comeback season for Tiger Woods, one the 14-time
major champion feared might never happen after back surgery.
The 42-year-old American has shown flashes of the form that
made him golf's dominant player in younger days in his first campaign after
spinal fusion surgery, a last-gasp operation to try and extend his legendary
"It was a last-ditch effort," Woods said. "I
tried everything else because fusion is the last-ditch effort and nothing
beyond that. So didn't know what my playing career would be like. This is all
So far, Woods' performances are steadily improving and the
medical charts are showing no back issues after years of nagging problems.
Woods has hit drives longer than his youthful days, led the
British Open in the final round in July, finished second in last month's PGA
Championship and fired a 62 earlier this month, his lowest US PGA opening round
since the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic.
And the former world number one achieved his goal of
securing a Ryder Cup captain's pick from Jim Furyk, who pulled him from a
planned assistant captain's role after seeing the quality of his game.
"Deep down, I wanted to make the team. I really wanted
to play on it," Woods said. "I had not started playing golf really
yet, but still, it was a goal at the end of the season to make this team.
"As the year progressed, I gained some traction and was
somehow able to get some high finishes and lo and behold, I'm a part of this
team. It's incredible, it really is, to look back at the start of the year and
to have accomplished a goal like that. To be a player is just beyond
Woods still hasn't won a major since the 2008 US Open and
hasn't won any event in more than five years, but has rediscovered the joy of
playing after fears it might never happen again.
"It's about enjoying being back," Woods said.
"Enjoying being able to play golf again. Competing at this level. All of
these things at the beginning of the year were all unknowns. It has been one of
my best years as a whole.
"To have a winless year, but to go through what I've
gone through - I didn't know if I was ever going to play again, I was just
hoping to be able to play with my kids and golf with my buddies at home - this
has been a blessing.
"It has been so special to have this opportunity again.
I'm certainly not taking it for granted, that's for sure."
Woods went into spinal fusion fearing his chronic back pain
might linger for life.
"I had resigned (myself) to it because I had lived in a
pretty difficult situation for a while. I just wanted the pain to go
away," Woods said. "It was painful sitting, laying, moving, anything.
It was just constant pain in my back and down my leg.
"Anything beyond that was going to be a plus
considering where I was coming from, and so to get to where I'm at, I never
thought that was going to happen."
Now Woods, who had 79 career PGA titles, hasn't given up his
quest to reach the record 18 major wins of Jack Nicklaus or Sam Snead's
all-time PGA mark of 82.
"In order to get to Jack's record, I have to pass
Snead's record. Just simple math," Woods said. "And I want to make
that happen. I'm close. I have been close to winning tournaments this year. I
think if I keep giving myself opportunities, I'll get the job done.
"I feel my next wins are coming soon. How soon, I don't
know, but I'm putting myself in tournaments now so I'm not that far away from
getting it done."
Woods, whose first major title came at the 1997 Masters, has
seen huge support from crowds at events, his amazing shot making at an older
age sparking roars and cheers rivalling those of his youth.
"People are more appreciative," Woods said.
"They know that I'm at the tail end of my career and I don't know how many
more years I have left. I'm certainly not like I was when I was 22 - 42, it's a
And, Woods says, people can relate more to fighting back
pain than superb golf heroics.
"Everyone has got aches and pains," he said. And
whether you've had kids or not, you get to your 40s, you're feeling it, and I'm
not the only one."