Tiger Woods 'didn't realize' how bad his back was at time of arrest

Tiger: I missed golf 'for fun' (1:47)

Tiger Woods gives updates on his back pain and explains that he's "loving life" before he plays in the Hero World Challenge. (1:47)

NASSAU, Bahamas -- At a news conference Tuesday, Tiger Woods did not speak specifically about his DUI arrest last spring other than to say he has not watched any of the police video of the incident.

But several questions referenced the circumstances that led to Woods entering a treatment program to help deal with various pain medications. And based on his remarks, it seems Woods is in a better place as he attempts another golf comeback this week at the Hero World Challenge.

"I was trying to go away from the pain,'' Woods said when asked whether the May 29 incident in which he was found asleep at the wheel of his car was a blessing or wake-up call.

"I was trying to sleep, which I hadn't done in a very long time because of the things I've been dealing with," he said. "So as my back improved, I've been able to start sleeping again because I don't have the nerve pain going down my leg, I don't have the leg twitching all over the place, I don't have these issues anymore.

"I'm loving life now.''

Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery on April 19, the fourth procedure he has had on his back since March 31, 2014. The various surgeries have limited him to 19 worldwide tournaments in that span.

After his Memorial Day arrest, the 14-time major champion said in a statement that alcohol was not involved but that he had an "unexpected reaction'' to prescription medication.

On Oct. 27, Woods pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving that was made available as part of a first-time offender diversion program. Given a year's probation and community service, his record will be erased if he has no other driving-related issues.

Tests revealed that five drugs -- Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and THC -- were in his system after he was taken into custody. There was no alcohol in his system, but under the terms of his plea agreement, he must refrain from drugs and alcohol and is subject to regular drug testing.

"Now that I'm feeling the way I'm feeling, it's just hard to imagine that I was living the way I was living with my foot not working, my leg not working, and then the hours of not being able to sleep because of the pain."

Tiger Woods

"I've come out the other side and I feel fantastic,'' Woods said. "A lot of friends have helped me. I didn't realize how bad my back was. Now that I'm feeling the way I'm feeling, it's just hard to imagine that I was living the way I was living with my foot not working, my leg not working, and then the hours of not being able to sleep because of the pain.''

Woods first started dealing with back issues in 2013, the year he won the most recent of his 79 PGA Tour titles. There was the incident he referenced at The Barclays, in which he fell to the ground after hitting a shot during the final round.

The following year, he elected to have the first of what turned out to be three microdiscectomies that were meant to alleviate a disk issue. Asked Tuesday whether he considered the fusion surgery then, Woods said it was not discussed; the idea at the time, and with the subsequent procedures, was to save the disk and maintain more flexibility.

But given how much better he now feels, Woods said, "I wish I had done it then.''

Through his various comebacks, Woods has rarely revealed how much pain he endured and often sought to downplay it.

For example, at the Dubai Desert Classic in February, after an opening-round 77 that included no birdies and showed a golfer who was clearly in distress during the round, Woods was asked directly about being in pain.

"No, I wasn't in pain at all,'' he said. "I was just trying to hit the shot and wasn't doing a very good job.''

The next day, Woods withdrew before the second round, and he has not played a competitive round of golf since.

That is due to change on Thursday at Albany Golf Club, where he made a similar comeback last year, only to have to shut it down again after just two more tournaments.

"This year is very different because last year I was still struggling with a little bit of pain,'' he said. "I was able to hit some good shots, able to play, but in looking back on it now, I look on it as playing in slow-mo, but it was as hard as I could hit it. I didn't realize how bad my back had become and how much I was flinching and just how slow I was. I didn't realize because it's been a slow, degrading process. I thought I had some speed, thought I was playing halfway decent, shot some good scores, but now I've looked back and I didn't have much at all.''

Woods said he has played practice rounds at home with the likes of Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. He is scheduled to play the first round of the Hero with PGA champ Thomas -- with whom he's never played a competitive round on the PGA Tour.

And there's been a healthy amount of optimism.

"The neatest thing for me is to be able to get out of bed and I can grab a club and not use it as a crutch,'' he said. "Now I'm able to take a swing. That's so exciting; you have no idea how exciting that is, and I'm just so thankful that I've had this procedure and gotten to this point.''

Woods lamented the fact that his children, Sam, 10, and Charlie, 8, have really not been able to see him play golf. "They think I'm the YouTube golfer," he said. "They've never seen me in action.''

And as it relates to the new generation of golfers who mostly grew up watching him instead of competing against him, he has a wish that he knows might not be realized.

"In an ideal world, I would like to have them feel what some of my past guys had to go against all those years,'' Woods said. "I'd like to have them feel that same way.''

Unlike past comebacks, Woods appears to be taking it slow and more realistically. He's not talking about winning or contending.

"I hate to be so mundane on this one," Woods said, "but, honestly, I'm just looking forward to getting through these four rounds and having an understanding, a better understanding of what I'm at."