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Tiger Woods pain-free ahead of 1st tournament since Masters

Fifteen-time major champion Tiger Woods said Tuesday the intense pain in his right ankle and foot are gone after he had fusion surgery less than eight months ago to address post-traumatic arthritis he suffered because of a car wreck in February 2021.

On Thursday, Woods is arranged to make his first start since the third round of the Masters in April at the Hero World Challenge. He hosts the tournament, which benefits his foundation.

“My game feels rusty; I haven’t played in a while,” Woods said during a news conference Tuesday. “I had my subtalar fused. 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.

“I can tell you this: I don’t have any of the pain that I had at Augusta or pre-that in my ankle. Well, other parts are taking the brunt of the load, so I’m a little more sore in other areas, but the ankle’s good. So that surgery was a success.”

Woods suggested that his improved health might let him to play more competitive golf next year.

“I think that best scenario would be maybe a tournament a month,” Woods said. “I think that’s realistic. You would have to start with maybe at Genesis [Invitational] and something in March near the Players. … [The PGA Tour schedule] sets itself up for that. Now, I need to get myself ready for all that. I think this week is a big step in that direction.”

Woods, who turns 48 on Dec. 30, withdrew during the delayed third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in April. He was limping badly on the rain-soaked course and grimaced after most of his swings. Two weeks later, he had subtalar fusion surgery on his right ankle.

“At some point in time, I was going to have to get my ankle replaced or fused,” Woods said. “That timetable was sped up. They weren’t expecting me to put as many forces into that ankle as when I hit drivers, and so I think the doctors were surprised by that. And the ankle just went, it was bone-on-bone, and that’s why you saw me limping and not feeling very good.”

Woods is scheduled to play in the Hero World Challenge pro-am Wednesday.

Then he’ll compete versus 19 other players over 72 holes in the no-cut event. Woods said he isn’t concerned about walking 90 holes this week.

“I don’t have any of the ankle pain that I had with the hardware that’s been placed in my foot, that’s all gone,” Woods said. “The other parts of my body, my knee hurts, my back. The forces go somewhere else. Just like when I had my back fused, the forces have to go somewhere. So, it’s up the chain. As I said, I’m just as curious as all of you with what’s going to happen. I haven’t done this in a while.”

With Woods’ former caddie, Joe LaCava, now working for Patrick Cantlay, he stated his longtime friend Rob McNamara would be carrying his bag this week. Woods said he didn’t know who his caddie would be next season.

Woods said he decided to play in the Hero World Challenge after caddying for his son, Charlie, at a junior tournament in Louisiana earlier this month, walking and carrying his bag for 54 holes.

“I was hitting golf balls a lot, trying to get Charlie ready for the event,” Woods said. “And then [after the] event, I started feeling, ‘You know what? I can probably do it, so why not?’ Talked to the committee, and a committee of one was able to give me a spot.”

Woods has participated in only five PGA Tour tournaments since he was hurt in a single-car crash outside Los Angeles. This past season, he tied for 45th at the Genesis in February and carded 74-73 at the Masters.

The former world No. 1 golfer is currently ranked 1,328th in the Official World Golf Ranking, his worst-ever ranking, because of his inactivity the past few seasons.

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