Tiger Woods is returning to golf Thursday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, after a long absence due to back and neck injuries. His first PGA Tour event of the year comes on the heals of an incident in which he chipped his tooth while attending his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn’s ski race.
Woods said the dental damage came from colliding with a photographer, and images of the famous golfer, sans a large chunk of his front tooth, caused a media stir. Woods offered an explanation of what happened.
“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,” Woods told reporters. “He chipped that one, cracked the other.”
Stories emerged after the incident that his version of what happened wasn’t true, but the 39-year-old brushed that aside.
“It is just what it is,” he said.
Woods’ tooth is all fixed now and he’s hoping his golf game is as well. Woods is returning to play for the first time in 2015, after having his worst season on record last year. Plagued with injuries, he played in just seven 2014 events. A trim Woods said he’s coming back with good health and a strong game. He indicated his trademark power is coming back as well.
“My driving has come around a lot faster,” Woods told a press conference. “I’m a lot longer than a thought I could ever be again.”
That means the fans that come out to watch this weekend should be seeing some long, powerful drives. And with the game’s most famous player returning they’re coming out in droves.
Tournament officials told PGATour.com that attendance records are going to be set and that media credential requests are way up. The tournament is known for a raucous atmosphere the current record attendance standing at a four-day crowd of 563,008 people.
That atmosphere contributed to keeping Woods away from Phoenix for 14 years after a fan threw an orange in his direction in 2001.
Woods tees off Thursday at 2:07 p.m. EST.