Tiger Woods will compete in back-to-back events for just the second time this season after committing to the first two FedEx Cup play-off events.
Woods wrote on social media that he will play the Northern Trust at Liberty National in New Jersey and the following week’s BMW Championship at Medinah in Illinois.
The Masters champion could then make it three weeks in a row if he qualifies for the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, which he won last year for his first victory since 2013.
Woods is currently 27th in the standings and needs to remain inside the top 30 to be eligible to play at East Lake. The 43-year-old has played only four tournaments, three of them majors, since his emotional 15th major victory at the Masters in April.
Before missing the cut in the Open earlier this month, Woods admitted he had been drained by his win at Augusta National and was forced to play a limited schedule.
“Getting myself into position to win the Masters, it took a lot out of me,” Woods, who has had four knee operations and four back surgeries during his illustrious career, said at Royal Portrush.
“I want to play here as long as I possibly can and you have to understand if I play a lot, I won’t be out here that long.”
The only other time in 2019 that Woods has played in consecutive events was when he followed a tie for 15th in the Genesis Open with a top 10 in the WGC-Mexico Championship in February.
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The consistency may have disappeared but the competitive edge remains for Tiger Woods. Frustrated at missing the cut at The Open, only the second time in his career he has done so at a major more than once in the same season, the former world number one remains defiant and determined, if somewhat pragmatic.
His famed powers of recovery are long gone. He knows it. His rivals know it. We know it. If he does not start well there is no coming back.
It was the case at Royal Portrush where an opening seven-over 78, battling his chronic back problems, did for his chances so that even an improved second-round 70 could not save him from a weekend off.
There is a train of thought that, with his physical health issues, the conditions an Open Championship throws up means he is unlikely to be in contention, unlike at the Masters where things are much more in his favour, as proved by his 15th major win in April.
Woods argues to the contrary, even if he accepts he is no longer the hero wearing the cloak of invincibility he did during 683 weeks as world number one in the first decade of the 21st century.
“It’s just a matter of being consistent. That’s one of the hardest things to accept as an older athlete is that you’re not going to be as consistent as you were at 23,” said Woods, who has had more back operations (four) than major triumphs (one) in the last decade.
“I’m going to have my hot weeks. I’m going to be there in contention with a chance to win – and I will win tournaments.
“But there are times when I’m just not going to be there and that wasn’t the case 20-some-odd years ago.
“I had a different body and I was able to be a little bit more consistent.”
On the flip side, winning one of four majors in the year, considering where Woods was not so long ago, now seems eminently acceptable.
And while a creaking 43-year-old body is probably giving him more problems than he will publicly admit, the competitive streak remains and he birdied the first from 30 feet to briefly hint at the prospect of a remarkable comeback.
Although the way he gingerly and slowly walked off the green told the real story.
As he warmed up he became more expansive, almost driving the 374-yard fifth and, after his second birdie of the day at the short sixth, he ripped a drive down the long seventh. More significantly it was dead centre.
Now he was purposefully striding off the tee to a background noise of howls and ‘Go Tiger’ shouts.
However, the utterances from Woods himself kept getting more desperate and informative as the hole played out with a trip into the gallery.
He knew his chances of salvaging anything were fading away and while the mind was willing the body was weak. But he keeps telling himself he can still do it and he will keep coming back – for now at least.
“I love just the stress of playing in a major,” he said.
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Tiger Woods headed straight for the physiotherapist after posting his worst first-round score at The Open.
The Masters champion, who is restricted by the four operations he has had on his back, knew as soon as he began warming up on the range around 2pm he was in for a testing day.
And the seven-over 78 he carded – which included just one birdie that did not arrive until the 15th hole – proved his point.
It was the 15-time major winner’s worst 18 holes at an Open since an 81 in round three at Muirfield in 2002, but he admitted there was little he could do about it and hoped treatment would get him in a better state for Friday.
“That’s about all I can do. Hopefully the body responds. That’s just the nature of the procedure that I had,” said Woods, who goes out again at 10.09am on Friday.
“I’m going to have days like this and I’ve got to fight through it. And I fought through it. Unfortunately I did not post a very good score.
“I’m sore. You’ve got to be spot on. These guys are too good. There are too many guys that are playing well and I’m just not one of them.”
Woods’ start was mixed to say the least as he found the left rough off the first tee, hit his approach into a bunker but managed to get up and down for par.
He admits that was about as good as it got and even his solitary birdie was celebrated with a sarcastic licking of his right index finger to chalk up a number one in the air.
“My warm-up wasn’t very good. I had a hard time moving and just trying to piece together a swing that will get me around a golf course,” he added.
“Then all of a sudden I made probably one of the best pars you’ve ever seen on one today. That was a pretty good start but it was kind of downhill from there.
“I hit a lot of missed shots, they were all left. I wasn’t hitting it solid. Everything was off the heel. I was just trying to scrape it around. The best I could do was seven-over.”
Woods had taken a month off after the US Open and had not played a competitive round ahead of the first round at Royal Portrush.
He spoke pre-tournament about having to manage his schedule in an attempt to sustain some longevity in what is left of his top-level career.
And he is having to come to terms with lower expectations and not necessarily being able to compete every time he tees it up like he did in the past.
“It’s going to be a lot more difficult. I’m not 24 any more. Life changes, life moves on and I can’t devote the hours to practice like I used to,” he said.
“I have to be realistic about my expectations and hopefully peaking at the right time.
“I peaked at Augusta well and hopefully I can peak a few more times this year.”
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