SCOTTSDALE, United States (AFP) – Tiger Woods, who had a front tooth knocked out by a video cameraman last week, displayed a full smile Tuesday after a nine-hole practice round ahead of the Phoenix Open.
“Every sport you get teeth knocked out,” Woods said. “Unfortunately I wasn’t actually competing and got teeth knocked out.”
Just down the road from where the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots will meet in Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl spectacle, 14-time major winner Woods’ first PGA Tour event since the PGA Championship last August after a back injury was commanding the golf world’s attention.
“My speed is back up again and that’s fun,” Woods said. “I’m touching numbers I did 15 years ago and that’s cool.”
But far greater than the state of his game was the interest in the state of his teeth after one was chipped and another was cracked on January 19 when he was struck in the mouth while watching cameramen photograph his girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, after she won her record 63rd World Cup ski race in Italy.
“The photographer changed positions and I got hit,” Woods said. “It was an accident… luckily he hit the one I had a root canal on.”
“There was blood everywhere,” Woods said, but he flew home and had dental repair work done the next morning.
“All good now,” Woods said.
Woods had been wearing a skeleton mask from a video game over his lower face, trying to conceal his presence at the ski event.
“Trying to blend in,” Woods said. “There’s not a lot of brown dudes at ski races. That was the whole idea of why I wore the mask.”
Woods said one of his teeth was knocked out and another suffered severe cracks that kept him from eating or drinking until he returned home.
“The flight home was a joke,” Woods said. “Couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink until he fixed them. Even breathing hurt. The air rushed over the nerve of the tooth that was cracked.”
Woods said he was surprised that his missing tooth received so much attention.
“New world I guess. We’ve got to talk about something,” Woods said.
“The story is about Lindsey breaking the record.”
Woods dismissed some people not believing the story of how he lost his tooth, saying, “It’s just what it is.”
With Woods, the story is typically about his quest to match the career record of 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus. This will be the first tournament for Woods since turning 39 and no player has won more than three majors beyond his 39th birthday.
Woods missed four months recuperating from a back injury before making his comeback last month at the Hero World Challenge, his charity invitational event, at Orlando, Florida. He shared last in a field of 18.
Woods is coming to Phoenix, known for a loud and boisterous crowd, for the first time since 2001, when a fan tossed an orange at home and another who heckled him was later found to have a gun.
“That’s one of the reasons I haven’t played it in a while,” Woods said of the security issues. “The people here over the years have done a great job of making sure it’s a lot more safe.”