Lee Trevino says Tiger Woods’ only problem is walking. The rest is good.
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Lee Trevino was on hand for Tiger Woods’ return last December at the PNC Championship, and he’s here again for what could be Woods’ final competitive rounds at St. Andrews.
The Hall of Famers teamed up with Rory McIlroy and former Women’s British Open champion Georgia Hall in Monday’s Celebration of Champions, where they played Nos. 1, 2, 17 and 18 on the Old Course to kick off the 150th Open.
At the parent-child PNC, Trevino, now 82, reported that Woods was “hitting it great” in his first action since the serious car accident earlier that year threatened his playing career. Trevino told reporters that he knew where Woods would play in 2022, and he offered this prescient prediction: “Whatever time limit you give him, he’ll beat it.”
Sure enough, Woods returned at the Masters, where he made the cut, and he also played the weekend at the PGA Championship before withdrawing ahead of the final round. This week’s Open marks his first official round since May 21.
Reflecting on Woods’ progress over the past year and a half, Trevino said Monday night, “I’m just glad he’s alive.” He was referring to the helicopter images in February 2021 that showed Woods’ mangled SUV after he drove off a cliff in Southern California, a wreck that left Woods with a shattered right leg.
“He has to be very careful that he doesn’t get to the point where he loses that leg,” Trevino said. “They’re working like hell to keep it. He got mashed up a little bit. He got mashed up a little bit…”
“But I will say this!” he continued. “It hasn’t bothered his playing a bit.”
He recalled a conversation with Woods on the range last December in Orlando.
“My problem, Lee,” Woods told him then, “is not hitting it.”
Trevino agreed, pointing to how Woods played the 18th hole on Monday in the exhibition. McIlroy, who is 13 years younger and doesn’t have any of Woods’ physical limitations, drove his ball into the middle of the green, 40 feet away, on the closing par 4. Woods hit driver, too, and rolled his tee shot over the back-left edge.
“Tiger is still hitting it just as far, just as high, putting just as well,” Trevino said.
“He said to me, ‘My problem is I can’t walk.’”
Trevino told Woods that tournament officials likely would grant him a cart for tournament use, if he wanted.
“He says, ‘I’m not taking a cart,’” Trevino recalled. “He said, ‘I will not take a cart.’ He said, ‘If I can’t walk, I’m not playing.’ I can understand that.”
Compared to Augusta National, the Old Course is a much flatter walk, but the old links also presents its own challenges, with its various humps, bumps and hollows.
“It’s gonna be tough,” Trevino said. “You can’t just go all of a sudden in a straight line. He’s gonna have to wiggle a little bit on some of the holes because of the ups and downs.”
Trevino pointed out another little-discussed issue with Woods this week: climbing in and out of the small, deep, pot bunkers.
“Bunkers will be difficult for him, but he hasn’t hit into one yet!” Trevino said. “I was gonna tell him, you need to aim at that bunker, man – you need to know how to get out of there. I’m talking about physically. I’m not talking about hitting the shot and seeing if he can get out.”
Woods has played 45 holes since arriving in town on Saturday afternoon, gearing up for what he said could be the final time that he plays the Old Course while competing at a “high level.” He has talked at length about how much time and effort his team of physiotherapists and trainers have put into getting him as ready as possible for major weeks. What he hasn’t detailed is the condition of his rebuilt right leg, other than to say it doesn’t look like his left; a photo emerged on social media recently that showed a significant contrast.
“I don’t know what the prognosis is,” Trevino said. “I don’t think they can do any more with it. I think they just work on it with all types of therapy and whatever trying to get the circulation right, in other words to where he can keep it. I think that’s his main goal. That’s his main goal.”