If you were to place Tiger Woods' 2018 season in the middle of his heyday years, when he was racking up PGA Tour wins, major championship victories and Player of the Year awards at an alarming rate, the old Tiger would have been the first to tell you it was a disappointing season, especially since he's winless in 14 starts.
But today's Tiger will tell you it's one of the best years he's ever produced.
"No doubt. No doubt," Woods said Tuesday ahead of prep work for Thursday's start in the Northern Trust at Ridgewood Country Club, the first of four events in the FedExCup Playoffs. "To go through what I've gone through ... I didn't know if I was going to play last year."
After three previous procedures to his back, Woods had a "last-ditch effort," he said, to regain his way of life, to play with his kids again and maybe tee it up with his buddies. Last April, two bones were fused in his spine and he slowly rebuilt his health, a battle that was joined by a fight against prescription drug medication, which he conquered.
After wondering if he'd ever play golf again, let alone on the PGA Tour, Woods has turned in a comeback for the ages.
He was 1,199th in the official world rankings last year before he played in the Hero World Challenge, a soft opening to start his comeback. After 14 starts on the PGA Tour, he's ranked 26th.
While he's winless, he's contended late on Sunday six times, including a tie for sixth in the British Open and a runner-up finish in the PGA Championship, his most recent start.
"This has been, as I've said before, this has been a blessing, but man, it's been so special to have this opportunity again," Woods said. "It's taken me months to get my playing feels and make my adjustments. As I've gone through the year, my body has evolved and has changed, and so trying to keep ahead of that and make the swing adjustments, as well, that's been interesting."
And successful. The year isn't over as Woods chases an 80th PGA Tour title and a third FedExCup championship.
In his first appearance in the FedExCup Playoffs since 2013, Woods, the only player to win the FedExCup twice, is committed to playing the first three events. After a one-week break, the Tour Championship ends the lucrative postseason. The following week, he'll likely be playing in the Ryder Cup in France as one of Jim Furyk's four discretionary picks.
"Yeah, that is a lot of golf," Woods said. "But 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."
Woods began reacquainting himself to Ridgewood on Tuesday, a course he last saw in 2010 when he finished 12th in the first FedExCup playoff event that year. The course is tree-lined, has plenty of lush, heavy rough, and is a tad on the slow side after recent storms.
"My memory is a little lacking," he said. "I only remember the last two holes."
A win this week would be his first PGA Tour title since 2013 and his first FedExCup playoff triumph since 2009. Woods is confident and feels good about his game, especially after his performance in the PGA, where he closed with a 64 -- his lowest final-round score in a major -- and fell two shots shy of Wanamaker Trophy winner Brooks Koepka.
After taking a few days off following the PGA and going to a lot of soccer practices, Woods got back at it before heading to the Jersey State.
"I feel my next wins are coming soon," Woods said. "How soon, I don't know, but I'm putting myself there in tournaments now. I've done it two of the last three tournaments I've played in and they were big events, so I'm not that far away from getting it done." ---