Tiger Woods was in typically bullish mood ahead of his return to competition as he targets a record 83rd PGA Tour title in the Genesis Invitational.
Woods has not played an event without the use of a cart since last summer’s Open Championship, when he missed the cut at St Andrews.
The 15-time major winner had intended to play the Hero World Challenge in the first week in December but withdrew after developing plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Later that month he did play a made-for-TV exhibition over 12 holes and the PNC Championship with his son Charlie, although in both events he was allowed to ride in a cart.
Carts are not allowed on the PGA Tour, where Woods shares the record for most wins, 82, with Sam Snead.
“I’m excited to be able to compete and to play here at Riviera, where basically it all started,” Woods, who made his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old amateur at Riviera, told a pre-tournament press conference.
“I would not have put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys and win the event. That’s my mentality and even though I’m very rusty, I’ve come off rusty situations before and done well.
“If I’m playing, I play to win. I know that players have played and they are ambassadors of the game and try to grow the game. I can’t wrap my mind around that as a competitor. If I’m playing in the event I’m going to try and beat you. I’m there to get a W (win).”
Woods was recovering from a fifth back surgery when he crashed his car in Los Angeles two days after the Genesis Invitational in February 2021, suffering multiple fractures of his right leg and ankle.
After being sidelined for 14 months, Woods returned to action in the 2022 Masters and made the cut at Augusta National and in the following month’s US PGA, but withdrew following the third round.
The 47-year-old said he has yet to walk and play 18 holes for four days in a row as his ankle continues to cause him problems, but is already looking forward to competing in the Masters at Augusta.
That will be where he comes into contact for the first time with some of the players who have joined LIV Golf and Woods admitted he was unsure how the atmosphere will be at the traditional Champions Dinner.
“I don’t know what that reaction’s going to be,” Woods said. “I know that some of our friendships have certainly taken a different path, but we’ll see when all that transpires.
“We as a whole need to honour Scottie (Scheffler). Scottie’s the winner, it’s his dinner. So making sure that Scottie gets honoured correctly but also realising the nature of what has transpired and the people that have left, just where our situations are either legally, emotionally, there’s a lot there.”
Asked whether LIV Golf now posed more or less of a threat to the game’s established tours, Woods hinted that the PGA Tour’s top stars could be encouraged to play in more DP World Tour events, with the two organisations enjoying a “strategic alliance”.
“It’s been very turbulent,” Woods added. “We never would have expected the game of golf to be in this situation, but it is, that’s the reality.
“They (LIV Golf) are a competitive organisation trying to create their best product they possibly can, and we’re trying to create the best product that we think the future of golf, how it should be played. How do we do that?
“We’re still working on that. We have so many of the top players aligned and how do we support our world partners and the DP World Tour, we need to have our top players understand we need to play around the world and again create the best product possible.”