PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Aware of the various media reports this week that first suggested Tiger Woods was struggling with his recovery from back surgery, Jimmy Walker couldn't help but get out the needle.
"Wow, you're standing up, you're not dead,'' Walker said to Woods on Thursday night at a Ryder Cup dinner.
"Yeah, everyone thinks I'm dead,'' Walker recalled Woods saying to him.
And so it goes.
The 14-time major champion, who may or may not be hitting drivers but appears to still be a ways away from returning to competition, attended the Ryder Cup function hosted by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus at the Nicklaus home in North Palm Beach, Florida.
"Tiger looked great,'' said Billy Horschel. "Looked in great shape. I saw him in the Bahamas at the Hero World Challenge and he was in rough shape, and he said that. Last night he looked really good. Mentally, he's in the same spot he was in December in the sense he's at peace with everything. But physically he's in a lot better shape and that's what he told me.
"He said he's excited to be progressing and hopefully he'll get back out here and kick our ass.''
Woods, 40, has not played in more than six months and has twice had back surgery since his last tournament, a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship last August. It was at the World Challenge in December where he last spoke publicly and suggested that "there was no light at the end of the tunnel'' as far as his rehabilitation.
There had been no updates on his condition until this week when Woods posted a video of him hitting a 9-iron shot on a golf simulator and proclaimed that he was "progressing nicely.'' His agent, Mark Steinberg, said, "It's a full 9-iron that he was hitting. He's been doing some chipping, working his way to where he is at right now.''
Golf Channel reported Thursday that Woods had been hitting drivers at the end of last week, although not at full speed. Steinberg declined to comment on that report, saying he stood by the Wednesday update.
Steinberg also would not offer any timetable for Woods' return, which is likely to be the topic of considerable speculation and debate regardless.
"He's swinging in a simulator I saw, so he must be getting better," Love said. "He looked great. He always looks good. He looked fit. Looked happy."