Tiger Woods 40th Birthday Interview

[time-interactive id=include-css params="css_url=http://img.timeinc.net/time/wp/interactives/apps/2015/instagram/instagram16.css"]   Turning 40, the golfer talks about his highs and lows on and off the course By Lorne Rubenstein   Tiger Woods…


Turning 40, the golfer talks about his highs and lows on and off the course

By Lorne Rubenstein



Tiger Woods was raised to be a champion. Groomed by a father who put a golf club in his hands before he could walk, Woods has been one of the most dominant athletes of all time since turning pro at 20 in the summer of 1996. His 14 major tournament championships are second only to Jack Nicklaus’ total of 18, a record he once seemed destined to surpass. But Woods hasn’t won another major since 2008, before his infidelities led to a high profile divorce from Elin Nordegren in 2010. His recent comeback attempts have been derailed by injuries.

Now, Woods is facing the very real possibility that his record-setting career will be over by the time he turns 40 on Dec. 30. Ahead of that milestone, Woods sat down for a rare one-on-one interview with TIME at his restaurant in Jupiter, Fla. With a bag of ice on his back, Woods talked about his desire to keep playing, his relationship with his ex-wife, why he and Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn broke up, the highs and lows of his career on the course and his feelings about watching golf on TV (“I can’t stand it”).




Where are you right now with your recovery?
I have just started walking. That’s it.

You were just sitting all day at home?

What’s a day of rehab like for you now?
I walk 10 minutes on the beach. That’s it. Then I come back home and lie back down on the couch, or a bed.

Do you watch golf?
I can’t remember the last time I watched golf. I can’t stand it. Unless one of my friends has a chance to win, then I like watching it. I watched Jason [Day] win the PGA. But it was on mute. It’s always on mute and I have some other game on another TV.

Do you have any recovery goals? With past injuries, you have.
Absolutely. But this one, I can’t. There’s no timetable. And that’s a hard mind-set to go through. Because I’ve always been a goal setter. Now I had to rethink it, and say, O.K., my goal is to do nothing today. For a guy who likes to work, that’s a hard concept for me to understand. I’ve learned a little bit of it, I think. I know that, one, I don’t want to have another procedure. And two, even if I don’t come back and I don’t play again, I still want to have a quality of life with my kids. I started to lose that with the other surgeries.

Because you couldn’t do things with them?
I’ll never forget when I really hurt my back and it was close to being done, I was practicing out back at my house. I hit a flop shot over the bunker, and it just hit the nerve. And I was down. I didn’t bring my cell phone. I was out there practicing and I end up on the ground and I couldn’t call anybody and I couldn’t move. Well, thank God my daughter’s a daddy’s girl and she always wants to hang out. She came out and said, “Daddy, what are you doing lying on the ground?” I said, “Sam, thank goodness you’re here. Can you go tell the guys inside to try and get the cart out, to help me back up?” She says, “What’s wrong?” I said, “My back’s not doing very good.” She says, “Again?” I say, “Yes, again, Sam. Can you please go get those guys?”

What’s it like when you contemplate the possibility that you’re not going to be able to play again?
Anyone I’ve ever talked to who has had procedures like I’ve had, they say the same thing: you don’t know. With a joint, you know. With a nerve, you just don’t know. I’ve talked to Peyton [Manning] about his neck and what he’s going through. It’s tough as athletes, when you just don’t know. The most important thing, though, is that I get to have a life with my kids. That’s more important than golf. I’ve come to realize that now.

You may not have realized that a few years ago?
One, the kids were still young, they weren’t into as many things. Prior to that, when I didn’t have kids, it would never enter my mind. Are you kidding me? What am I going to do, go bass fishing? No. But now to watch my kids and play sports and to grow up and participate, and even teach them how to become better, oh my God, it gives me so much joy. I can’t imagine not being able to do that as I get older.

That’s more important than winning a golf tournament?
Absolutely. No doubt. My kids are more important to me than anything else in the world.

What do you have to prove?
I’ve done a lot more in the game than I ever thought I could. And to be in my 30s, and to have done this much? I never would have foreseen that.

You won 14 majors by the time you were 32.
I know. It’s frightening. I’ve had a good run.


Are you saying that if it did all end because of your injuries, you’re not so uptight about it?
Put it this way. It’s not what I want to have happen, and it’s not what I’m planning on having happen. But if it does, it does. I’ve reconciled myself to it. It’s more important for me to be with my kids. I don’t know how I could live with myself not being able to participate in my kids’ lives like that. That to me is special. Now I know what my dad felt like when we’d go out there and play nine holes in the dark.




How do you feel about the way the media have covered you?
There’s no accountability in what they say. And what they say, it’s like it’s gospel, there’s no source behind it. Nothing like, yeah, I talked to X number of players, I talked to this player, this player, this player. It’s none of that. It’s just, some of the announcers, they don’t even go on the golf course. And they look at a pin sheet from the booth, but they’ve never surveyed the golf course, even though the television coverage doesn’t come on until the afternoon. You have all that time to go walk the golf course, to see some of the early rounds, see what guys are doing, how they’re hitting it, how’s the course playing, is the wind coming up? All those different things that you could do. The only one who does that is Finchy [golf broadcaster and former PGA Tour pro Ian Baker-Finch].

How do you handle the speculation about you?
One, you don’t listen to it. And two, in today’s world, you don’t go online.

You don’t read what’s written about you? Was there a time when you did?
Not really. And that has served me well. It has served me well. Like my dad said when I was young, Were any of these guys there? If anybody has any kind of perspective on it, it would be the caddy. He saw the shot, he understood what the circumstances were. Other than that, there’s nobody else. So what’s their take on it? Who cares? They weren’t there. They didn’t see how difficult it was, what’s going on.

Nick Price told me years ago that it’s much different for you than it was for him when it comes to media attention. There weren’t nearly as many outlets back then. And no matter what you shoot, people want to talk to you.
Uh-huh. I went through a stretch, I think it was eight years ago, where I never missed a post-round interview. And the first time I did, they crucified me. I said, Realize I’ve done this for almost a decade. No matter what I shot, I always did a post-round interview. I did that for like eight years in a row, every round I played in, and when I don’t do it, they just killed me for it. I go, O.K., guys, put it in perspective here. How many guys get a pass for shooting a bad round?

How would you characterize your relationship with the media over the years?
I have a lot of good friends in the media. Guys I’ve gone out to dinner with on countless occasions. With respect. There’s also a flip side of people that I really don’t care for. Hey, they made their career being negative and being outlandish. They’ve made a career out of it. But that’s their take. They’ve almost created a character, per se.

Have you had to learn how to deal with the changes?
I have. Get me in the right environment and I can be myself. But if we go to a crowded place, and now everybody has their camera phones out, everybody wants a picture or an autograph—well, it’s hard to be myself when we have a crowd of people over us. You want to just hang out with me, but you can’t hang out. You can’t get a word in. Now the table’s crowded all around us. You’re having your dinner, well, you can’t—people are reaching over you to get to me. Now, is that fun?

Do you go out on your own? Do you have security?
We normally have security with us for the kids. It’s just for the kids.

You were at the center of the public eye when your private life was exposed in 2009. What would you have done differently before and after?
In hindsight, it’s not how I would change 2009 and how it all came about. It would be having a more open, honest relationship with my ex-wife. Having the relationship that I have now with her is fantastic. She’s one of my best friends. We’re able to pick up the phone, and we talk to each other all the time. We both know that the most important things in our lives are our kids. I wish I would have known that back then.

What kept you from knowing that?
Either that’s the position I was in, or I took advantage of opportunities. But, when it comes down to it, right down to it, it’s just having a more open, honest relationship with my ex-wife when we were married. Our frustrations would have come out if we had talked about it and been open and honest with each other. Which we are now, and it’s absolutely fantastic.

You tried to make it work for a while.
It was too tough, too tough. But now, in hindsight, as years and years have gone by, we’re like best friends. It’s fun. She talks to me about her life, I talk to her about my life. We try and help each other out on all occasions. And we work through it with the kids, the parenting program. She is one of my best friends now, and it’s all because of my kids. We’ve worked so hard, and I’ve shown her how much I love them. We’ve worked so hard at co-parenting, to make sure that their lives are fantastic. For instance, I’ve told her this, I’ve taken the initiative with the kids, and told them up front, “Guys, the reason why we’re not in the same house, why we don’t live under the same roof, Mommy and Daddy, is because Daddy made some mistakes.” I just want them to understand before they get to Internet age and they log on to something or have their friends tell them something. I want it to come from me so that when they come of age, I’ll just tell them the real story. But meanwhile, it’s just, “Hey, Daddy made some mistakes. But it’s O.K. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. But look what happened at the end of it. Look at how great you are. You have two loving parents that love you no matter what.” And I said, “You have no idea how lucky you guys are, to have two parents that love you so much. Unfortunately, we’re not in the same house, but the flip side is we love you no matter what you do. And I’m a parent, as the dad, who is always going to try to help you, guide you through life.” And so, that’s part of the initiative, hey, it was my fault too. I was to blame, and so I’m taking initiative with the kids. I’d rather have it come from me, as the source. And I can tell them absolutely everything, so they hear it from me.

It sounds like you’ve done a lot of reflection.
I think it’s the nature of golf, too.

It’s the most private sport played publicly.
One hundred percent agree. Think of how many hours a professional golfer has spent on the range, by himself, or chipping green by himself, or putting green by himself. Whereas other team sports, you’re always with a teammate. It’s a totally different atmosphere and a totally different mind-set. We can be loners and never see anybody.

Is part of being a champion being selfish?
I think every great champion who has ever lived would say, yeah, they’re selfish in certain aspects. That’s how you got there. You had to put in extra time in the weight room, extra time running and running, extra time recovering, extra time running their plays or hitting shots or doing the things that other people didn’t do. Why do you do it? Yeah, you wanted to become better. But there’s a cost.

Beyond the physical toll, can that hurt relationships?

Did Lindsey [Vonn, the ski racer whom Woods dated for three years until May 2015] say that was difficult with the two of you, that you were both so committed to what you were doing?
Well, with Lindsey, what was hard is we never had time together. We’re texting each other. It was a great relationship, but it was so hard, when I’m training to do my sport, it takes umpteen hours to do, and I can’t travel, except to my tournaments, because I’m here dedicated to my two kids. Meanwhile, most of her summer is spent in South America, at training camps in Chile and Argentina, and then you’ve got her season, which is mostly in Europe. And I can’t travel because I have the kids—my off weeks I’m devoted to my kids—and I have to be here. It’s a relationship that was fantastic, but it just can’t work on that level. It just could not work. It was doing an injustice to both of us.




It’s always been said that one of the things that has driven you is Jack’s 18 majors. [Jack Nicklaus set the career record for major victories between 1962 and 1986.] If your career stopped now, that’s obviously out of the question.
I don’t want it to happen. Without a doubt. I do not. With all my heart, I do not want to stop playing golf. But the flip side is, my kids’ lives are much more important to me. Now, if I can do both, that is an ideal world. It’s a win-win. If I can only do one, it wouldn’t be golf. It would be my kids. That’s still a win-win.

You sound like you’re not driven as much by records as we might think. Yet you had Jack’s 18 majors on your bedroom wall as a kid. Is there a misconception about what drives you?
O.K., here’s the major misconception that people have all gotten wrong. It’s what was posted on my wall, about Jack’s records. It was not the majors, O.K.. There was one on there. It was the first time he broke 40, the first time he broke 80, the first golf tournament he ever won, first time he ever won the state amateur, first time he won the U.S. Amateur, and the first time he won the U.S. Open. That was it. That was the list. It was all age-related. To me, that was important. This guy’s the best out there and the best of all time. If I can beat each age that he did it, then I have a chance at being the best.

Have you beaten most of those?
I beat them all. I beat them all. [Note: Woods never did win the California Amateur championship.]

So the one left isn’t the one that was on the wall, the 18 majors.
No, just what I told you, all age-related, the first time he did this, this, this and this. His first major win was the U.S. Open. Mine was the Masters.

What is the ultimate criterion for deciding on who is the best ever?
You can’t compare eras. You really can’t. It’s like, O.K., who’s the better [pro basketball] center: Bill Russell or Shaq? You just can’t say who was the best because the game has changed so much. Jack crossed so many eras because he played for so long, and he was in contention for so long. The same could be said for Sam Snead. How many eras did he play through? He ended up winning, what, at 54, when he won at Greensboro? I think you have to be able to say you’ve played in so many different eras, and I have. Most of my friends are on the senior tour now, the guys I grew up playing with, my compatriots.

What’s it like for you sitting and not being able to compete against the current crop? I don’t think you’ve played against any of them at full strength.
I haven’t. It’s interesting to see how the game has changed. In today’s game you don’t have to make cuts. And I see these guys miss so many cuts when they’re that good. To go out five times in a year and miss cuts, I just don’t see that. It doesn’t compute, because I haven’t done it. I think I’ve missed only 15 cuts in my career.

These younger guys like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler are in their 20s. You’ll soon be 40. Do they ask you questions?
Absolutely. They all have, when they first came out on tour, especially. And probably one of my closest buddies now is Jason. I’m still really close with Rory, and I’ve gotten a little bit closer to Jordan over the years, ever since we played on the same Presidents Cup team. Now we’re able to speak to each other. I didn’t even know who he was. I’d seen him play but never really got the chance to know the kid. Getting to know him, he’s a great kid.

What sort of questions?
Jason’s probably asked the most questions. By far. What would it take for him to take his game to another level? What would you do to hit this shot? How would you play that shot? He’s very, very inquisitive. He’s not afraid to ask the question, not afraid at all. I kept telling him, Don’t ever be afraid. Colin [Swatton, Day’s longtime friend, coach and caddy] told me that he’s afraid to ask you go to play a practice round with him because it was me who got him started in the game, winning the ’97 Masters. And that’s the guy hitting balls right next to you. So Colin says he’s a great kid. I say, I know, I’ve heard a lot about him. C’mon, let’s go play. That’s how it all started, and it’s been cool ever since.

I remember Mike Weir saying he was hitting balls beside Nick Price at the Canadian Open, and he thought, That’s the guy I have to play against. I have a lot of work to do.
Uh-huh. When I came out on tour, the guys I got to play with in practice rounds were phenomenal, a who’s who of who is in the Hall of Fame. I’d ask them to play, and they would show me shots. Raymond [Floyd], all the short game shots he showed me. Then you had Seve [the late Seve Ballesteros] and Ollie [José María Olazábal]. We’d talk about shots, or if we’re in the same tournament, would you like to go out to dinner, or would you like to chip a little bit? I got to know Seve a little bit when Butch [Harmon, Woods’ swing coach from 1993 to 2004] and I were working together, down in Houston. He was working with Seve at the same time, and we’d time it up so that we had training camps together, two- or three-day training camps. We’d hit balls and then he’d show me short game, for hours. Then we’d go play till dark. It was awesome. To see how he could do it, and I could never do it. But I could take pieces. I’d ask him, but man, I couldn’t do a lot of them. But I realized I don’t have to do a lot of them. I can do it my way.

You’ve used the term “full throttle” to describe your approach, even in 2008 at the U.S. Open when you were in such pain.
From the very first shot, the first hole, you have to be that way. It’s one of the things I was trying to teach Jason Day this year. The first hole is just as important as the last hole, and every shot is exactly the same. So you have the same intent, the same intensity. Nothing changes.

The first tee shot at the Masters is the same as the last?
I am grinding just as hard. So if I have that mentality, I get so worn out mentally, because I’m grinding that hard. Golf is, what, five hours? You’re trying to tell me that I can’t go out there and focus that hard for five hours, when I’ve got 19 other hours to recover? That’s how I look at it. So I’m going to give it absolutely everything I can, everything I have, for this five-hour window. Let’s go. After that, hey, we’re done.

But you don’t want to hurt yourself either.
And I have. I pushed through it. When I enter a tournament, my intent is to win. And even though I’m banged up, or whatever it is, that’s also been one of my problems, that I have had the ability to block out pain and play through it. It’s been a good thing and a bad thing.

How has it been a bad thing?
It’s made injuries worse. I’ve paid the price. If you look at the U.S. Open in ’08, I played on no ACL, I’d ruptured my ACL in ’07, but I still won five of the last six tournaments I played that year, and the following year, I played six tournaments, I won four and finished second in the Masters. And so, understand that I can play through it, and I can still win, I can be successful, but along the way I’m just doing damage.

Did your doctors say that you shouldn’t play in the 2008 U.S. Open?
Everybody said the same thing. I said, it’s at Torrey [Torrey Pines golf course in San Diego, where Woods had won six PGA Tour events] and I’m playing. I’m going back to work. The funniest story ever, though, is that before that U.S. Open, I’m playing at Big Canyon—which was my home course in Southern Cal [Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach]—and I went out on the back nine. It was the first time I had played a round of golf—I hadn’t played a round since the Masters. I hadn’t walked a golf course yet until I get to the Monday of the U.S. Open, when I first walked nine holes. And I tried to play with this knee brace on, and we’ve tried, I don’t know how many, umpteen different types of knee braces, lengths, size, cuts, I tried them all, all different companies.

Well, the problem was, knee braces don’t allow you to rotate—a golf swing, you need to rotate. So I went out and played nine holes. I think I’m a pretty good golfer—you know what, I think I’m a damn good golfer—but when I went out there on my home course and I lost eight balls in nine holes. I shot 54, not long before the U.S. Open, and I’m grinding my butt off, and I said, O.K., you’re the No. 1 player in the world, and you just lost eight balls on a home course that you could play blindfolded, and I shot a 54. This is going to be an interesting week.

Did you feel things starting to improve, that you could handle the pain?
Yeah. That’s when I could feel the break a couple of times, and it hurt.

Did you ever consider, I can’t do it?
No, no. First of all, I didn’t want to show anybody that I was hurt. You never want to show your competitors that you’re hurt. I don’t want them to get that mental edge, Oh, he’s down. You always pick yourself right back up. That’s what I’ve tried to do my entire career: not show that I am hurt. Play through it.

Those were the years nobody thought you would miss a putt. You’ve not putted as well in recent years.
Well, here’s the deal. When my back was bad, anytime I bent over, my whole upper body and neck would start to cramp up, and so, putting was the most painful, and so I never practiced it. It hurt too much. It’s just a matter of getting healthy enough to where I can do that again. Because I know I can putt. I proved that to myself this year that I can still putt. I haven’t lost my nerves. My hands don’t shake. I don’t feel any of those sensations, unless my back was acting up. But then bending over would cause my neck to go, and eventually other parts of my body would start to go.

What about in chipping, and those little shots you’ve missed or chunked?
That was a total technique, shifting away from [former swing coach Sean Foley’s] motion to going back to our older motion. It was completely different, what Sean teaches and what I was trying to go back to are polar 180.

Can you describe what he was teaching and what you were trying to do?
What I can say is it was a tough time, being out in my backyard and not being able to make contact with the golf ball.

Were you shocked by that?
I had never seen myself going through a spell that bad. I’ve never lost my short game my entire life. I’ve lost other parts of my game, but I’ve never lost my short game. My short game’s always been my buddy. I’ve always been able to chip and putt. Granted, I’ve had stretches where I don’t putt well. But I’ve always felt like I’m a good putter. My short game has always been, I think, on the top end, better than the tour average, and it’s saved me and won me countless tournaments. Now take that away, the game of golf becomes a lot harder. I have to hit the ball a little bit better. I can’t afford to miss a green because my chipping’s not there.

Is it a matter of hitting some of those shots properly, seeing them again and getting the confidence back?
Once we fixed the technique, it was grand. But then as my back progressively started to get worse, every shot started to become more difficult again. It was a tough position to go through at the end of the year where finally, I’d made the swing change, I’d made the progress I wanted. I finally did it, finally got to this position where, man, I can actually go out there and play some golf now. But man, this hurts. And so, I’m enjoying hitting shots again, hitting all these shots, boy, this is so much fun, boy, this hurts a lot doing this. I was thinking, Oh well, it can’t be that bad. But yeah, eventually it is that bad.

Have there been times when you’ve come back too early from injuries?
Yes, I have. There’s no doubt about it.

Well, I did it in 2003. I’d had meniscus surgery in December 2002, and I beat Phil [Mickelson] and Fax [Brad Faxon] in the final round, my first tournament back [the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines].

You won, but you still feel you came back too early.
But then that’s youth.

How do you keep up the intensity through all these injuries?
That is probably the most satisfying, because I think anyone can win when they’re playing great golf, when they’re at a level where everything is going well. That’s easy. But trying to dog out a win when it’s just not there, it’s really hard. It’s hard on the mind. Sometimes it can be very hard on the body, when the body’s not working right. For me, I rely a lot on the past, remembering shots and situations. But also understanding at that particular moment where I need to miss the ball, where I need to place the ball, putts that I remember breaking certain ways, how this putt was on this particular green because it was wet, what it did. All those things, my memory comes back to really help me. As I’ve gotten older and gotten more experienced, if the golf course hasn’t changed, I can tell you a lot of putts and shots, what they do. If you go to a course like St. Andrew’s, where they haven’t touched it, I can tell you all the breaks. Even though there are a lot of them, I can tell you what each one does. I think my mind has probably been my greatest asset.




If you look back, can you say what your best moment was?
I’m shocked at how many tournaments I’ve won, in hindsight, now that I’m laid up. More than 100 around the world. Playing through it, you really don’t realize it. If you’re in a team sport, you don’t realize how many games you’ve won. It just piles up on you. I wouldn’t think that [Tom] Brady right now knows how many games he’s won. You just play, you get ready for the next week, you’re in that moment. You’re always getting ready, always getting ready, always getting ready. Well, I can’t get ready for anything. O.K.? So it gives you a chance to step back and look at it from a grander scale, from 30,000 ft. And how my foundation has grown. We’re looking at expanding internationally. To be able to call up Condi Rice and say, “How do we do this?” She says, “O.K., what country is involved?” She can work with the embassies there, the universities. Those are conversations I couldn’t have when I was younger. I didn’t earn the right to be able to have the conversations. But now it’s legitimate. We’re in our 20th year. We have $100 million in endowment, that’s pretty good.

Do you think about your legacy?
The greatest thing that could happen is to not be remembered. What I mean by that is, the kids right now, they don’t know that Michael Jordan played. They see a Jumpman [logo] and they think, that’s so cool. I’m talking young kids, really young kids, single digits in age, they have no idea who Michael Jordan was, but the Jumpman logo is cool. Now, for me, they don’t understand who that is. My learning center, kids go through it and they don’t know who I am. They don’t know what I’ve done. But it’s a safe haven for them to learn and grow.

We’re in another place with your name on it. Why a restaurant?
I live just up the road, and my kids are just south. I have to drive 25 or 30 minutes south to get to a nice restaurant. Who wants to do that every day? That’s not a lot of fun. So I said, O.K., let’s put a restaurant here. Let’s do something that’s different and that’s never been done in the area. Let’s create a sports bar, but not so high end that it’s suits and stuffy. I hate that. I hate going into a place where you have to wear a sport coat. I can’t stand it. But also comfortable enough where you can wear flip-flops, which I like. That’s how I want it to be, and that’s how I am. I’m just chill.

Does golf have too much emphasis on a dress code?
You think? O.K., how many clubs do you have to put a sport coat on, to go into the clubhouse? Or you can’t wear a hat on backward. Or shorts. At Augusta, you can’t wear shorts. I made the mistake myself. I know. I had shorts on, but thank God I had rain pants in my golf bag.

You seem to love playing at Medalist, your local club in Jupiter, Fla. Why?
It’s a bunch of dudes who just want to go out there, play golf, smoke cigars and gamble. And post-round, they want to play gin, for hours. And I love going out there in the evening by myself. That’s one of the happiest times I can ever experience. It brings back all the great times I had with my dad, being back there on the old back nine at the Navy golf course [the Seal Navy golf course, in Cypress, Calif., where Woods grew up]. We’d go back in the corner, on No. 6, way back there in the corner—it’s the furthest point on the golf course—and we’d be on the tee back there just hitting golf balls, not saying a word to each other. Going out in the evenings brings me back to that happy place.

How long is it since you’ve been able to do that?
It’s happened at sporadic intervals, no doubt. Here and there, this year, here and there last year, but nothing consistent, not for, jeez, at least five years or so.

Are you able to keep a sense of peace?
I would have to say that, probably, my only peace has been in between the ropes and hitting the shots.

Did you begin to see this after you turned pro, or earlier?
I didn’t play for any attention. I played for the hardware. I wanted to know that I beat everyone in this field, and I wanted them to know that they got their butt kicked. That to me was the absolute pure pleasure of competing. But then, I got noticed for that. But when I first started playing, I was a little kid, say, in the nine and unders, and 11 and under, there was nobody there, but I still want to kick your butt. That never changed. Then people started to take notice of those wins. But I had been doing it since I was very little. By the time I was 11 years old, I had already won 113 tournaments. I peaked at 11, to be honest with you. I went 36 and 0 that year, never lost a tournament, all in California. And I probably had the cutest girlfriend in all of sixth grade. And I had straight As. No A-minuses. They were all perfect A’s. I peaked at “. I’ve been trying to get back to that since.

Do you ever wish your name weren’t Tiger?
Put it this way. I’m glad my dad didn’t name me Richard. That would be a long day. Tiger is O.K., but Richard would have been tough.

You’re coming up to your 40th birthday. Can you honestly see yourself at the top again?
Absolutely. I have to get healthy in order to do it, though. I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% healthy, but as close as you can to that point, that would be nice. As long as I don’t have the pain, then I don’t think there would be an issue. I will probably play through a little bit of pain, aches and pains, as you get older, you have more aches and pains. But I don’t need another surgery, period. Let’s just not go down that road ever again. No more surgeries. Seven’s enough. Four knees, three backs, that’s enough.

Lorne Rubenstein is a veteran golf journalist and the author of numerous books, including Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius, and A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands

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