Thursday, January 30, 2003

Tiger says he played through 'brutal' pain in 2002

The Associated Press

Tiger Woods' dominance became even more impressive Wednesday when he revealed that pain in his left knee was so intense last year it made him sick to his stomach, and he had to take injections just to keep playing.

"It was a tough, tough year, one I don't want to have to go through again," Woods said Wednesday during his first interview since Dec. 12 knee surgery.

Despite benign cysts that made his knee ligaments inflate like a balloon, Woods became the first player in 30 years to win a season's first two majors, and won a total of six times.

Woods received clearance from his doctors Saturday to hit a driver and as many practice balls as he wants. He'll decide next week whether he is fit enough to return Feb.13 for the Buick Invitational in San Diego.

If not, Woods said he would try to play either of the following weeks, in the Nissan Open or the Match Play Championship.

Woods first revealed his left knee was hurting at the season-ending Tour Championship. He showed few signs of pain during the year, when he finished out of the top 10 only twice after winning the Masters.

"It was a good acting job," he said. "Last year, toward the end, it was brutal. A lot of times, I didn't want to go out there and play. I felt nausea in my stomach because the pain was so great. I had it injected numerous times to play."

Woods said the pain affected him in some of the majors. He won the Masters and U.S. Open by three strokes each, finished second by one stroke in the PGA Championship and was in contention at the British Open until an 81 on a cold, blustery Saturday at Muirfield.

"You've got to put it aside and play," he said.

The one-hour surgery removed fluid from inside and around the anterior cruciate ligament and removed benign cysts. Woods' doctor said the long-term recovery prospects are good.

"But once you've had the procedure done, you're susceptible to having the same procedure," Woods said. "Hopefully, that won't be the case."

The real test comes this week. Woods said hasn't felt any pain since he started hitting a few practice balls at his home outside Orlando, Fla.

"I need to know if this knee will hold up in a full practice session," he said. "Once I know that, I'll be fine competing. I may be rusty when it comes to hitting one shot. ... Playing my way into shape is going to take a little time."

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