Tiger Woods says he has “exceeded” all his expectations and is “proud” of his performance this season as he gears up for a shot at the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus at the season-ending Tour Championship.
The former world No.1 has made an impressive return to competitive golf this term after recovering from spine fusion surgery last April.
A first win since 2013 has eluded him, but qualifying inside the top 30 players on the PGA Tour to make it to the exclusive finale at East Lake, near Atlanta, this week is something he couldn’t have envisaged at the start of the year.
“I’ve exceeded a lot of my expectations and goals because so much was unknown,” the 42-year-old, who has undergone four back operations in recent years, told reporters at East Lake Wednesday.
“When I was laying on the ground and couldn’t move for a number of months, golf was the furthest thing from my mind. To have gone through that and got to this point. It’s good fun.”
The Tour Championship is the culmination of the four FedEx Cup end-of-season playoffs, which began in New Jersey towards the end of August with the top 125 players on the points list.
The field has been whittled down to the top 30 for East Lake, all of whom mathematically have a chance of scooping the $10 million bonus for topping the FedEx Cup standings.
“Either you get here, or you don’t. It’s a very hard line,” said Woods, who won the FedEx Cup in 2007 and 2009.
Asked to rate his season given the circumstances, he added: “The ‘W’ (win) category doesn’t compare to some of the years I’ve had … but to have come off the last few years of inactivity, to have qualified for East Lake, and to have been as consistent as I have been and to have put together a game from pretty much nothing, that’s something I’m very proud of.”
Woods sits 20th on the FedEx Cup rankings – but in his favor, Bill Haas came from 25th to clinch the prize in 2011.
Woods is still stranded on 14 majors – his last win was the 2008 US Open – and 79 PGA Tour titles, but his results this season have shown he’s once again a contender after climbing back up to 21st in the world rankings after beginning the year at 656.
Woods briefly led the British Open at Carnoustie in July before finishing sixth and ended as runner-up behind Brooks Koepka in the US PGA in August.
“I’m close to winning golf tournaments again,” he added. “I’m putting some of the pieces together. I’ve come close in a couple of events and it’s about putting it all together at the right time.”
Woods’ play this season has also earned him a return to the Ryder Cup as a player for the first time since 2012. He was already set to attend the event at Le Golf National outside Paris, France, but captain Jim Furyk offered him a wildcard selection as a player.
“To have earned the confidence in my team mates and captain to be selected gives me a lot of excitement going into the Cup,” said Woods.
“We have a solid team and so do the Europeans. It’s about playing well at the right time and making putts. Both teams are very deep this year and I think it will be fun to see how it plays out.”