Tiger swing changes after crash adding to back concerns

The 15-time major winner walked his 46-year-old frame, held together with metal rods and plates, across hilly 7,510-yard Augusta National on Friday to shoot a two-over par 74 and share 19th on one-over 145 after 36 holes.

Tiger Woods. Picture: @TigerWoods/Twitter

UNITED STATES - Swing changes forced upon Tiger Woods after severe leg injuries suffered in a car crash 14 months ago have added to concerns about his surgically repaired back at the Masters.

The 15-time major winner walked his 46-year-old frame, held together with metal rods and plates, across hilly 7,510-yard Augusta National on Friday to shoot a two-over par 74 and share 19th on one-over 145 after 36 holes.

It's a major feat considering Woods feared he might lose his right leg and spent weeks hospitalized and months unable to walk.

"I'm proud of the fact that my whole team got me into this position," Woods said. "We worked hard to get me here to where I had an opportunity and then not to have any setbacks this week."

Woods is set to play 99 holes over eight days at Augusta National, the biggest golf stress load on his body in such a span in years, he said.

That counts 72 holes in the year's first major and three nine-hole practice rounds in the four days heading into the event, where he is chasing a record-tying sixth green jacket.

Woods said he has altered his swing motion due to the repairs made upon his body after the accident.

"The ankle is not going to move," Woods said. "I got rods and plates and pins and screws and a bunch of different things in there. It's never going to move like it used to.

"The more important thing is the ankle is always going to be an issue, but more importantly, if I play golf ballistically, it's going to be the back."

Woods won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines on a broken leg then went 11 years before winning another major title at the 2019 Masters, completing an astonishing comeback from spinal fusion surgery after he feared back pain might keep him from having a normal life playing with his children.

He said his back will face new stresses thanks to the changes needed after his leg injuries.

"It's fused. So it's the levels above and below that are going to take the brunt of it," Woods said.

"If I can't push off, I can't rotate as well. Fortunately, I'm still generating enough speed. My ball speed is at 175-ish (mph) when I hit it good, so that puts shearing on the back.

"I already had back issues going into this, and now this kind of just compounds it a little bit."

Another issue for Woods has been reading putts and breaks in greens the way he once did, a crucial factor over the undulating putting surfaces at Augusta National.

"Seeing 10 feet of break, you've got to get used to it to the eye, and I haven't played a lot of competitive golf," said Woods, who hadn't played a competitive event since the 2020 Masters delayed to November that year by the coronavirus pandemic.

"So it's taken a little bit to get used to it, but I finally got my eye back."

Woods tees off at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) in Saturday's third round alongside US compatriot Kevin Kisner.