SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (Reuters) - Tiger Woods, set to compete at the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week for the first time in 14 years, was in a humorous mood on Tuesday as he spoke about his rusty game and a repaired set of teeth.
Eight days ago, Woods lost a front tooth and had another cracked by a video camera after watching his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn claim a record 63rd World Cup Alpine ski win in Italy.
Woods said the collision occurred after he had climbed a hill to watch the podium presentation with all the photographers jostling for position below him.
“That didn’t feel very good,” the former world number one, who this week will be playing only his second tournament in five months due to back problems, told reporters ahead of Thursday’s opening round at the TPC Scottsdale.
”I was looking down, and all the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she’s (Lindsey‘s) hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down.
“Dude with a video camera on his shoulder, right in front of me, kneeling, stood up and turned and caught me square on the mouth. He chipped that one, cracked the other one.”
Woods had surprised Vonn when he turned up at Cortina d‘Ampezzo for the Super-G race, and wore a skeleton-patterned scarf over his face in a bid to stay as anonymous as possible.
“Trying to blend in, because there’s not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, okay?” he smiled, sparking roars of laughter from the reporters gathered around him.
“I‘m trying to keep this (mask) thing on so the blood is not all over the place, and luckily he hit the one (tooth) I had the root canal on.”
Woods, who played nine holes in practice on Tuesday, said he experienced the most pain during his flight home to Florida.
“I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink until he (the dentist) fixed them, put the temporaries on,” he said. “Even breathing hurt, because any kind of air over the nerve ... the tooth that was still alive, was cracked.”
Limited to nine tournaments worldwide last year due to back issues, Woods has not played in a PGA Tour event since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August and conceded that his chipping had required the most work.
“My driving has come around a lot faster,” said the 39-year-old. “My speed is way back up. Chipping, I was caught between techniques ... we had to basically hit thousands upon thousands upon thousands of chips. Now it’s better.”
Editing by Frank Pingue