Woods speaks for first time since surgery, unsure of return

Saying he is wearing a full, straight knee brace and will need to be on crutches for at least three weeks, Tiger Woods made his first public remarks Monday since undergoing reconstructive surgery on June 24, but he offered no timetable for his return to competitive golf.

"I really don't know," Woods said during a conference call to promote his AT&T National, a tournament near Washington, D.C., that he hosts but will be unable to attend. "We'll have to see how this thing heals and everyone heals at a different rate. Some six months, some at nine and some at 12. To be honest with you, no one really knows until we start the rehab process and see how this thing goes."

Woods, who won the U.S. Open in dramatic fashion in a playoff over Rocco Mediate on June 16 at Torrey Pines in San Diego, said the ACL in his left knee was reconstructed using a graft taken from his right hamstring. He said that some cartilage damage was repaired during the surgery.

And he acknowledged that this surgery was inevitable.

Woods injured his ACL last summer while jogging, he said, after the British Open. He was able to play the remainder of the year -- winning four of his last five official events -- and then he spent the offseason strengthening his leg in hopes of putting off surgery.

"My ACL wasn't all that great to begin with," he said. "There wasn't a whole lot left. You need to train and develop your hamstring and glutes as much as possible to hold it. Everyone was surprised it lasted as long as it did."

Although Woods played well through the early part of the 2008 season -- victories in his first four events -- the knee got worse. Woods had arthroscopic surgery on April 15, two days after finishing second at the Masters.

"That was to get me through the rest of the '08 season," he said. "And then have it [reconstructive surgery] done after the '08 season. [But] I developed stress fractures and decided to bag it for the rest of the year."

Those stress fractures developed sometime while Woods was rehabbing from the April 15 surgery.

"I didn't play the Memorial because of that," Woods said. "I basically couldn't practice. Couldn't play more than nine holes. After dealing with that, I decided to make the U.S. Open my last event of this season, no matter how it turned out."

It turned out to be one of the most remarkable tournaments in recent memory and a victory that Woods put at the top of his 14 major championships.

Unbeknownst to those outside of his inner circle, Woods could barely walk in the days leading up to the tournament. His first 18-hole round walking was the first round of the U.S. Open. He had barely practiced and winced in pain often throughout the tournament.

That pain was apparently due to the stress fractures more than the knee, which Woods said has been troublesome for years.

"I've been trying to adjust over the years to alleviate some of the stress I do put on my left leg," he said. "My left knee has been sore for 10 or 12 years. It'll be nice to finally have a healthy leg. My doctors have assured me my long-term health will be better than it's been."

Woods expressed regret at having to miss the British Open and PGA Championship "at venues that I liked. To not be able to go is frustrating."

Asked if he would make an appearance at the Ryder Cup in September or be an assistant captain if captain Paul Azinger inquired, Woods said: "I'm not part of the team. I'm out of it now. It's about those 12 guys. It's not about me. I'm not a part of that crew."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.