Schedule, heat took toll on ‘worn-out’ Tiger in ’18

NASSAU, Bahamas — A successful season that saw Tiger Woods win for the first time in five years and rise to No. 13 in the world ranking also took its toll.

Woods admitted Tuesday that his season-ending stretch that went through the Ryder Cup was too much.

“I was not physically prepared to play that much golf at the end of the year,” Woods said during a news conference in advance of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club.

“It’s one of those years; it’s never been this hot. At every single tournament, it was just stifling. Starting out in D.C. [in June for the Quicken Loans National], then you go to Akron, even the PGA [Championship in St. Louis] was hot for all the days. New York, Boston. It was in the mid-90s at East Lake [in Atlanta].

“It was just hot. It was hard for me to maintain my strength and my weight through all of that. I was exhausted by the time I got to the Ryder Cup. I was worn out mentally, physically, emotionally.”

Just a week after holding off Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose to win the Tour Championship for his 80th PGA Tour title, Woods went 0-4 in the United States’ defeat in Paris at the Ryder Cup. Starting with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, Woods played seven of nine weeks through the Ryder Cup.

All of that makes planning his 2019 schedule a challenge, as there are periods where there are a number of big tournaments and Woods will have some tough decisions.

Aside from the four major championships and the Genesis Open at Riviera — which his foundation runs — Woods did not commit to anything Tuesday. He is believed to be considering the Sentry Tournament of Champions next month in Hawaii, which he has not played since 2005.

The Farmers Insurance Open, where he has typically started his year, figures to be on the list. He confirmed Genesis and then things get interesting. The following week is the WGC-Mexico Championship, and if he plays there it puts his hometown Honda Classic in doubt. The week after that is the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, followed by the Players Championship. The feeling is Woods will skip either the Honda or Arnold Palmer.

He’s not going to play five in a row, so something has to give. After the Players, he could return to the Valspar Championship, where he tied for second this year, or play the following week at the WGC-Dell Match Play. Or neither.

But he is expected to play at least five times, more likely six, prior to the Masters.

If Woods chooses, he could avoid playing three weeks in a row all year until the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs, if he is eligible for all of the events.

“I took a significant break after the Ryder Cup, got away from it for a bit,” Woods said. “My training sessions have been good. I’ve been getting a little bit stronger. My core and my legs are definitely stronger than they have been, which is a positive.

“Now I get started working on my game and getting that organized heading into next year. Haven’t really spent a lot of time doing that. I’ve been working more on getting my body ready to handle the rigors of long practice sessions again and getting back to that.”

Woods covered a variety of subjects before a practice round for the Hero, which features 18 players and begins Thursday.

On the major championship schedule for 2019:

Woods has won at Augusta National, Bethpage Black (site of the PGA, where he won the U.S. Open in 2009) and Pebble Beach (site of the U.S. Open, where he won in 2000). He has never played Open venue Royal Portrush.

“What I did in the last two major championships, I gave myself a chance to win both of them and I was right there,” said Woods, who tied for sixth at The Open and was second at the PGA. “That’s ultimately what we want to have happen. Now it’s about trying to get everything to peak together like I did for those two weeks, to do it again four more times. That’s the trick.

“… That is the most difficult thing to do in this game. That’s why most people haven’t won a lot of major championships, because it’s so hard to do.”

Would winning a major signify he is back?

“I wouldn’t say so, no,” Woods said. “Just being able to win a golf tournament again, considering where I was at this point last year and pre that point, yeah, I think what I’ve accomplished this year has been pretty special.”

On being a playing captain for the 2019 U.S. Presidents Cup team:

With a long way to go, Woods is currently 16th in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings. The top eight automatically make the team. It has yet to be determined when the cutoff for the team will fall.

“Would I like to be a playing captain? Yes,” Woods. said. “There has been that precedent already set, 1994 when Hale Irwin was captain. … That’s very similar to what I would do. If I make the team on points, yes, I’ll play.

“Now, if I don’t make it on points, then it’s up to myself, my vice captains and the rest of the players who are already on the team [to decide] who is best suited to play. If we think that’s someone else, then I don’t play. It will be a team decision on who are the next four picks.”

On The Match with Phil Mickelson:

“I think overall the experience was positive,” Woods said of his loss to Mickelson on the 22nd hole on Friday in Las Vegas. “Obviously there’s some things we can do as far as interaction and as far as play. I wish we both would have played better, but neither one of us putted well that day and there were some tough hole locations out there.

“So maybe going forward, just don’t quite have the greens so fast or the pins so difficult. But also, as short as the golf course was playing, we should have made at least seven, eight birdies apiece. We just did not.”

On what he felt was his shot of the year:

“For how I viewed it at the time — this is in the moment — the shot I hit down 10 at the Open Championship out of that [fairway] bunker, I thought that this is the tournament. I win The Open Championship or lose The Open Championship on this shot. If it clips the bunker, I lose. If it comes out, I’m going to go ahead and win this thing.

“You saw the speed I put into it and the shot I hit [with a pitching wedge]. To be able to pull that off knowing that I hadn’t done this in a very long time. I knew this was the moment. This was going to turn and this is how I was going to win this tournament because this is what I’ve done before in the past.

“There are moments when in a tournament where you know this is the shot that’s going to win or lose the event. Unfortunately, I didn’t win it, but at the time to know it and pull it off, that gave me a lot of confidence going forward, to be honest with you.”

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