Tiger Woods made a casual entrance around 8:40 a.m. Tuesday at Ridgewood Country Club.
Gone were the screaming Midwestern masses from Bellerive, replaced by a handful of fans at this old-timey club in the NYC suburbs.
His arrival at the Northern Trust kicks off a potential stretch of four tournaments in five weeks for Woods, who has already committed to the first three FedEx Cup Playoff events.
“That should get me into (the Tour Championship in) Atlanta, and on the back side is obviously the Ryder Cup,” said Woods, who is essentially a lock to play for the U.S. team in Paris on a captain’s pick. “It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practice too much, don’t overdo it and make sure my training schedule goes well. That’s one of the hard things this year is trying to find the right balance and as the summer has gone on, I’ve gotten better and felt better, and this is a pretty important stretch.”
Woods said he took a few days off after the solo second finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago and was able to go watch his kids’ soccer practices back home in Jupiter, Fla. That finish all but ensured a Ryder Cup roster spot for Woods, who was already going to be in Paris as a vice captain. That would complete a remarkable rise for Woods after basically two years away from tournament golf.
“At the very beginning of the year, I told (captain Jim Furyk) that I wanted to be part of the team, not just as a vice captain but as a player. I’m very close to making that happen. It’s been a long year and one of my goals was to make that team, because to be part of that team you’ve got to be one of the 12 best players, and I’m kind of trending towards that.”
Woods headed to the practice green shortly after his press conference and later signed a few autographs en route to the driving range with a practice round to follow.
This week marks the next phase for Woods, a two-time FedEx Cup winner who last won it in 2009 and hasn’t played it since 2013.
Woods has been close to winning multiple times this season with five top 10s and two runner-up finishes. And while he’s still winless over the last five years, he said this season will rank among his best regardless of how it ends.
“No doubt. No doubt,” Woods said. “I was just hoping to be able to play golf with my kids and with my buddies at home. I wasn’t thinking about the Tour and now I’m contending in major championships and have had a chance to win a couple major championships. … Man, it’s so special to have this opportunity again.”
At 79 career wins, Woods is just three back of Sam Snead’s all-time record. And with another major win, he would move three back of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 victories. With the way he’s been playing lately, 18 career majors is no longer out of the question. And it sounds like he’s intent on catching Snead in the near future.
“In order to get to Jack’s record, I have to pass Snead’s record,” Woods said. “Just simple math. In order to get to Jack’s ultimate 18 I’ve got to pass Sam’s, and I want to make that happen. I’m close. I have been close to winning tournaments this year. I think if I keep giving myself opportunities, I’ll get the job done.”
His next chance to do that begins this week in New Jersey.