NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Sporting a trimmed beard that looked like it belonged on Prince John in Robin Hood, Tiger Woods may not have slammed the door on playing in the British Open at Royal St. George's but he did everything except cross the moat and pull up the drawbridge. In a press conference prior to the AT&T National at Aronimink GC outside Philadelphia, Woods said he hasn't hit a single golf ball, other than a few putts, since the Players Championship when he had to withdraw after just nine holes. The prospect of Woods being in competitive fettle in so short a time seems scant, indeed. "I wouldn't go over there just to show up," he said. "I'd go over there to win the golf tournament, so I need to obviously get my body ready so I can practice and eventually play."
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Woods, who has had four surgical procedures on his left knee -- three arthroscopic and one ACL reconstruction -- did say further knee surgery was not contemplated, nor had a more drastic solution, like knee replacement, been suggested. He said that he no longer walks with crutches or wears a boot for the accompanying Achilles injury and that he was progressing without setback. While that certainly leaves open the possibility of playing again this year, the slow pace of his progress suggests the PGA Championship in August in Atlanta might well be in jeopardy, too.
"Probably, in retrospect, it was a borderline call whether I should have played the Players. Unfortunately, I hurt myself there. Now, this time around, it's different. I'm going at it differently," said Woods. "I'm setting no timetable, which is very different for me. I'm just going to learn my lesson from what I did at the Players and apply it this time and come back when I'm 100 percent. I don't know when that is going to be. That's kind of the frustrating thing about it right now is, I don't know."
Prior to injuring himself hitting a shot from underneath the Eisenhower Tree at the Masters in April, Woods had undertaken major swing changes with instructor Sean Foley. Now, he needs to be healthy enough to put them in play.
"Sean and I, we've worked on a game plan of what I need to make and I just can't wait to be able to do it, to try and actually implement all those and put it together and then come out here and do it," said Woods. "That's the fun part. I just need to get to that point."
Woods has been undergoing daily therapy sessions on the injured knee and Achilles. "Obviously, we're trying to push it every day and challenge my leg every day and see how it responds and, if it gets better, then we move progressively a bit further, and if it doesn't then we either stay there or take a step back," he said. "It's just a progression. That's obviously how rehab works."
During his absence, Woods did manage to take notice of the record-setting performance of 22-year-old Rory McIlroy in the U.S. Open at Congressional. "That was some seriously good playing," said Woods. "He was able to go low but also able to continue pushing it, and that's what's fun, when you have a lead is to keep building on it and pushing. That was very impressive playing. To do that at a U.S. Open, to be that aggressive the entire time, that was cool to watch."
-- Jim Moriarty
(Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)