It was 15 minutes after his first public appearance since a terrifying car crash in February that Tiger Woods, valuing an uncertain future and a famous past, took the measure of his career.

“I had that last major,” said a wistful Woods on Tuesday, recalling his stunning 2019 win at the Masters Tournament, the most-watched golf event, at 43.

Climbing to a similar peak in golf, however, is no longer in Woods’ plans.

“I had a pretty good run,” Woods said, with the slimmest smile, at a press conference nine months after suffering devastating leg injuries when his sport utility vehicle fell off a boulevard. of the Los Angeles area at high speed. . He added, “I don’t see this type of trend developing for me. It’s going to have to be a different way. I’m at peace with it. I have made the climb enough times.

At that point, one of the most influential athletes of the past quarter century retired from the brightest spotlight in sport. Woods said he hopes to play competitive golf again at some level, although he has offered no timeline for achieving that ambition. Instead, a sporting champion known to have lent himself to victories conceded that his surgically reconstructed right leg would forever inhibit his once high expectations and motivation.

“A full training program and the recovery it would take to do that,” he said, “no, I don’t want to do that.”

It was a striking concession for stubborn woods and an inflection point for golf and sports in general. Woods has been among the world’s most prominent figures since winning the first of his 15 major golf championships in 1997, with a recognized likeness the world over and ubiquitous commercial backers.

Yet for all of his triumphs and the fame that came with it, the February crash and its debilitating aftermath were in line with a recurring cycle of fortune and misfortune – all created by Woods – that will forever mark his life story.

At the height of his fame, in 2009, when he looked destined to easily surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major golf championships – Woods already had 14 – reports of serial infidelity cost him his marriage, and he was shunned by many in the golf community. His countless corporate sponsors have abandoned him. The scandal led him to take a long break from golf.

When Woods returned to competition, he struggled to regain his old form, in part due to physical ailments associated with the obsessive, possibly overly aggressive training regimen that had been his hallmark. Worse for Woods, on the same golf courses where he had been greeted with wild cheers, he instead encountered an eerie calm that bordered on disdain.

Over time, he became a lame afterthought as a young wave of golfers replaced him at the top of the rankings. Woods’ descent led to a defining act: an arrest in the middle of the night in May 2017 that revealed an opioid addiction. Police took Woods into custody after he was found alone and asleep in his car at the side of a road with the engine running.

In keeping with his career arc, Woods’ resurrection was dramatic and compelling.

At the Masters 2019, he was not considered a serious contender. Yet as he played the last holes of the final round on the hallowed ground of Augusta National Golf Club, Woods had rejuvenated himself. He played his best golf as his younger rivals withered away, hitting three of the last six holes to claim his fifth Masters title. When he sank the winning putt on the 18th hole, Woods celebrated with a primal scream that seemed to be matched by the thousands of fans circling the green.

Two years earlier, Woods had ranked 1,119th in the world. His return, given his difficulties off the course, is one of the greatest in the history of the sport.

As Woods continued to be competitive in 2019 and won another event, the pandemic forced an extended absence from golf. In January of this year, he underwent a fifth back surgery which put him on the sidelines. He was hoping to return in April.

On February 23, police determined that Woods was driving at around 85 mph in a 45 mph zone on the winding southern California highway when he lost control of his SUV. Woods suffered open fractures, in several places, of the tibia and fibula on his right leg.

On Tuesday, speaking ahead of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, a tournament that benefits Woods’ foundation, he briefly discussed the crash and its aftermath, which included the possibility that his right leg would need to be amputated.

“I feel like I’m lucky to be alive but still have the limb – those are two crucial things,” said Woods, 45. “So I’m very, very grateful that someone upstairs was able to take care of me and I can not only be here but also walk with a prosthesis. “

When asked what he remembered about the crash, Woods said, “Yes, all of the above answers were answered in the investigation. So you can read it all in the police report.

In an investigative affidavit, Woods has repeatedly stated that he cannot remember how the accident happened. He has not been charged with any breach of the law. When asked if he had any flashbacks or recent recollections of the incident, Woods replied, “I don’t. I am very lucky this way.

Woods said he deliberately did not watch the reports about his accident while in hospital.

“I didn’t want my mind to go,” Woods said, adding that he was in tremendous pain, even under treatment. When asked if he was still in pain, he smiled and nodded.

“Yeah, my back hurts, my leg hurts,” Woods said.

Woods seemed more at ease when he discussed what he can and cannot do on the golf course right now. He started playing a few holes, but said his swing lacked speed and power, noting that many of his shots “fell from the sky” much earlier than before.

“It’s telling,” Woods said and offered his support with a laugh to a United States Golf Association initiative that encourages golfers to play from tees that can dramatically shorten the length of the course. “I really like this idea.”

The commentary reflected the arduous road Woods will have to negotiate to return to the elite level of golf needed to play on the PGA Tour.

“I have to prove to myself that I’m good enough,” he said of the effort. Referring to the PGA Tour pros, Woods joked, “I’ll steal and putt with any of these guys, but the lessons are longer than the chip-and-putt lessons. I’m not going to play the par 3 course at Augusta to win the Masters. You need a game bigger than that.

But Woods, who explained that the muscles and nerves in his right leg had to continue to readjust, was nonetheless optimistic that over time he could possibly improve his game enough to sporadically replay touring events.

“To ramp up for a few tournaments a year, there’s no reason I can’t do it and feel ready,” he said. “I came out of long layoffs and won or almost won. I know the recipe.

He cautioned, however, that he was not yet close to that level of golf.

“I have a long way to go to get to this,” Woods said. “I haven’t decided whether or not I want to get to this.”

Around midway through the press conference, Woods was asked if he wanted to play at next year’s British Open, marking the 150th anniversary of the event. It will be held in St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf.

“I would love to play at St. Andrews, my favorite golf course in the world, and be a two-time Open champion there,” he said.

But Woods’ next line was perhaps the most revealing. He changed the subject to see if he could attend the pre-competition ceremonial dinner for the former British Open champions.

“I wish, you know, even being a part of the Champions Dinner is really cool,” he said. “These dinners are priceless. It’s an honor to be a part of a play like this.