HOUSTON • Tiger Woods has reported a dramatic improvement in his physical condition since December but admitted that he is still to play a full hole, or hit stronger than a nine-iron, during recovery from a third back operation.
At the Hero World Challenge in December, golf's former world No. 1 offered a gloomy outlook on his return. On Wednesday in Texas, speaking publicly for the first time since that event, he was more upbeat but said the "no timetable" prognosis for a reappearance in competition remains.
"It is a heck of a lot better than it was then," the 40-year-old said. "During December I wasn't feeling very good and you could see that all over me. I couldn't play with my kids, I wasn't able to throw and play catch with my son.
"Can I do them now? Yes. I can't do it all. They are out running and I can't keep up with them but I am getting there.
"Part of that is playing golf; I have been chipping and putting with Charlie."
Woods has not played since last August. Asked whether he could possibly reappear before or at next month's Masters - the year's first Major, he replied: "I would love to say yes but I don't know."
The 14-time Major winner added that he is now more patient during the recovery process, having pushed through the pain barrier earlier in his career.
The American famously played and won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines with a broken leg and a torn anterior cruciate ligament but has not won a Major since.
"I've played through a lot of injuries," he said. "I've played through some situations I probably shouldn't have, won some tournaments I probably shouldn't have won. But I've cost myself some other tournaments by pushing through that, and I've cost myself months and years because of it."