SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tiger Woods laughed often and smiled easily during a nine-hole practice round early Tuesday morning. Then he explained how he made worldwide headlines a week ago for a missing tooth.
Woods, who is playing in his first PGA Tour event of the year at this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open, was photographed at girlfriend Lindsey Vonn's ski race with a missing left front tooth on Jan. 19 in Italy.
"That didn't feel very good," said Woods, who had traveled unannounced to watch Vonn set a record for victories. "I was looking down, and all the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she's hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down. Some already finished, some are there already in the changing area.
"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. He chipped that one, cracked the other one.
"And so then, you know, I'm trying to keep this thing so the blood is not all over the place, and luckily he hit the one I had the root canal on. That's the one that chipped. But the other one had to be fixed, as well, because it had cracks all through it."
Woods said he had the teeth fixed when he returned to Florida.
"Oh Jesus, the flight home was a joke," he said. "I couldn't eat, couldn't drink until he fixed them, put the temporaries on. I couldn't have anything touch it. Even breathing hurt, because any kind of air over the nerve, the tooth that was still alive, was cracked."
Woods said he got into this position because he tried to surprise Vonn and didn't want to be recognized. He wore a skeleton ski mask.
"I had my mask on so no one knew who I was, trying to blend in, because there are not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, OK," Woods said. "So that was the whole idea of why I wore the mask."
Woods said the mask is from the Xbox video game called "Ghost Recon" that he plays.
As for the considerable conjecture about his story not being true, Woods said: "It is just what it is."
Woods is playing this week for the first time since he tied for last at the Hero World Challenge in December. That was his first tournament since missing the cut in August at the PGA Championship, where he was dealing with back issues.
This will be his first appearance in the Phoenix tournament at TPC Scottsdale since 2001. He will play in the pro-am Wednesday morning.