(CNN) — Tiger Woods says he’s only prepared to walk away from playing golf when he no longer believes he can be competitive as he insisted that’s currently not the case.
The 15-time major winner has not played a tournament since his early withdrawal from The Masters in April, but will tee off as the Hero World Challenge tournament host at the unofficial PGA Tour event in Albany, The Bahamas, on Thursday.
“I love competing, I love playing,” Woods told reporters ahead of his highly-anticipated return to competitive golf.
“I miss being out here with the guys. I miss the camaraderie and the fraternity-like atmosphere out here and the overall banter.
“But what drives me is that I love to compete. There will come a point in time, I haven’t come around to it fully yet, that I won’t be able to win again. When that day comes, I’ll walk.”
Woods underwent ankle surgery in May after enduring “constant” pain across his three rounds at Augusta National during the Masters the previous month, only his second competitive appearance of 2023.
It’s the latest in a long-list of physical issues that have troubled Woods, including severe leg injuries suffered in a car crash two years ago.
While confirming the operation to fuse his ankle earlier this year was successful, Woods said that his recovery took its toll.
“It’s six months of doing nothing,” reflected Woods. “That’s the hard part. The first couple months were really rough,” he said.
“Unfortunately I’ve had experience, I’ve gone through it before and I’m here on the good side now.”
The 47-year-old Woods has prioritised appearances at the four major championships in his sporadic competitive appearances in recent years.
Looking ahead, he told reporters that the best and most realistic scenario for 2024 is to compete in one tournament per month.
‘My game feels rusty’
Started in 2000 and staged as a benefit to Woods’ TGR Foundation, the Hero World Challenge has been a tournament in which the golf icon has previously staged comebacks to the game.
An invitational field of 20 players will feature in this year’s edition, all competing for the $4.5 million prize money purse.
Woods has been partnered with fellow American Justin Thomas for his return, with the pair due to tee-off at 11.52 a.m. ET on Thursday.
Woods insists he still believes he can win the tournament, but does admit that while his ankle is better, he still feels pain in other parts of his body.
“My game feels rusty, I haven’t played in a while,” he said.
“I’m excited to compete and play and I’m just as curious as all of you are to see what happens because I haven’t done it in a while.”
In August, Woods was named as the sixth player director on the newly-formed PGA Tour policy board. The move gave the players a one-seat advantage after the controversial merger in June between the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf.
When asked about the shock announcement, Woods said he had been “frustrated” that players were not consulted beforehand.
“I would say that my reaction was surprised, as I’m sure a lot of the players were taken back by what happened so quickly without any input or any information about it, it was just thrown out there,” he said.
“I was very surprised that the process was what it was. We were very frustrated with what happened and we took steps going forward to ensure that [players] were not going to be left out of the process like we were.”
Woods also said he had “faith” in PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who came under fire for his involvement in the proposed merger, but insisted not consulting players “can’t happen again and won’t happen again.”
Earlier this year, Monahan admitted the announcement had been “ineffective” and, as a result “there was a lot of misinformation.”
“I think anytime you have misinformation that can lead to mistrust, and that’s my responsibility. It’s nobody else’s responsibility – that’s me and me alone,” Monahan said in August.
“As I’ve said, I take full accountability for that. At the same time, I apologize for putting players on their back foot.”
Woods was generally happy with how things had evolved since joining the board, but admitted to being frustrated by how long certain governance changes had taken to occur.
Woods also warned that the December 31 deadline for the proposed framework was “coming up very quickly.”
“We have multiple options, but still, we would like to have a deal done on December 31st,” he added.
“That’s what the agreement said in the summer and all parties understand that, but there are other options out there.”
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