After suffering devastating injuries to his right leg in a car accident earlier this year, Tiger Woods came closer to losing his leg than has previously been disclosed.

“I’m lucky to still have the limb,” he said last week during a press conference at the Hero World Challenge, Woods’s first competitive golf appearance since the February wreck that left his right tibia and fibula in pieces. It took multiple rods, pins, and screws to reassemble the bones. “I’m very grateful that someone upstairs was taking care of me,” he said. “[Amputation] was on the table.”

He has spent the ensuing months absorbed in the ups and downs of rehabilitation, and only recently became able to walk without crutches. The rehab process is far from over, Woods told Golf Digest: “I’m not even at the halfway point. I have so much more muscle development and nerve development that I have to do in my leg.”

Renowned for his mental toughness, Woods had already endured five back surgeries and multiple other operations before this year’s car crash. But he told Golf Digest that losing the use of his leg ranks among the most difficult challenges he has faced. To get through the dark times, he used a psychological trick he learned from his father, a combat veteran who survived some ferocious battles in Vietnam. “You don’t know how long a firefight is gonna take,” Woods says, recalling his father’s advice. “It could last five seconds or five hours, and some could go on for days at a time. With that in mind, you don’t know when the end is, so that’s the hard part. How do you get through that? One of my dad’s ways of getting through that was to live meal to meal. . . . It just shortened up the windows of, Oh, this is gonna be nine months of hell, to It’s just two or three hours. Next thing you know it adds up; it accumulates into weeks and months.”

While Woods hopes to get back to the point where he can occasionally play in future PGA Tour events, he says he’ll never by physically able to compete on a regular basis. “If my leg gets OK, I can still click off a tournament here or there,” he said during his press conference. “Never full time, ever again, [but] pick and choose a few events a year a play around that. It’s my reality. I understand it, and I accept it.”

The Golf Digest interview is 35 minutes long; you can watch the full thing here.

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