During the Memorial Tournament in July, Woods shot a 71 under par in the first round with a flowing back. The next day he shuddered and limped to a four-over-par 76 when sudden back stiffness made a full swing impossible. Afterward, an imperturbable Woods didn't seem surprised – or disturbed.
"So you never know exactly what you're going to get every day?" I asked him.
He smiled and replied, "It will happen more often than not."
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Sports and the Virus
Updated Sept 15th. 2020
Here's what is happening as the sports world slowly comes back to life:
Fans can argue whether this season's baseball records really count. But the official historian of M.L.B. insists that the performance is as real as any other. The Superdome in New Orleans had a dystopian feel when football returned without one of the most loyal congregations of fans. Oh, and Tom Brady flopped when the Saints beat the Buccaneers. The United States Tennis Association has no regrets holding a US Open without fans, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
Woods has played six times this year (not counting charity) exhibition game with Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) and his best finish was a draw before the ninth in late January. In the six months since that result, the best he has done is tie for 37th place, with four finishes outside the top 50.
At tournaments, Woods' character is, in his prime entire range, now almost always measured and cooperative. On Tuesday, he didn't break form when asked to recap his season so far. He sounded like a golfer of any streak after a wave of bad play: he missed putts, made some swing errors and put the ball in the wrong places.
"I've made more mistakes," he said.
As one of the few golfers in the expansive field to compete in the last US Open held at Winged Foot in 2006, Woods was asked what advice he could give his colleagues as they attempted a golf course known for its formidable challenge. He couldn't say much since he missed the cut that year, the first time he'd done so at a major championship.
But there was one more piece in his 2006 US Open story.
About a month after finishing third at the 2006 Masters and failing to finish the tournament for fourth once, his father, Earl Woods, died. Woods only played as the next major of that year, with Winged Foot in June.
"Yeah, when I didn't win the Masters that year, it was really hard to do because that was the last event my dad would ever watch me play while I played," Woods said Tuesday. .