The two-time Masters champion required surgery last June following the PGA Championship to fix a torn meniscus. It forced the 44-year-old off the course for an extended period of eight months and in an interview with Golf Digest, he explained when he knew he was in serious pain. “[The] little tears [in my meniscus] kept getting worse,” Watson said. “At the PGA Championship, I shot 63.
“[On the 10th hole] I looked at my caddie, and I said, ‘I can’t walk … my knee hurts so bad I can’t walk.’ He goes, ‘Well, the clubhouse is right here; we can quit.’ I said, ‘I’m one off the lead, man …Tiger Woods won [the 2008 U.S. Open] with a broken leg … If I chip in and make a few putts, we’ve got 27 holes to battle.’”
Once the American returned home to Florida, he discovered the extent of the damage done to his knee. “When I got home I [I discovered] my meniscus detached. It came off the bone,” he said. “[Doctors] had to put an anchor on one side of my knee to wrap the meniscus around it. We didn’t want to just shave it; I didn’t want arthritis [because] I wanted to be able to play for many years. That’s what made the process a lot longer than normal.”
After a long period of rehab and six months after announcing he had joined Greg Norman’s rebel tour, Watson is due to return at this week’s Saudi International, a month ahead of his formal debut with LIV Golf. He began to hit drivers after LIV’s season-ending event in Miami last October, before returning to full practice in December. “I was champing at the bit, yes, to get back out and play,” the former world number two said.
“But every time I saw someone miss a short putt, I was like, well, I haven’t missed a short putt in a while, so this is actually pretty good.” He added: “There’s no health problem anymore except mental. I’ve got to have confidence in what I’m doing. I shot 63 eight months ago at PGA Championship, and now [it’s about] trusting everything that I couldn’t do over the last eight months: trusting my skills, trusting my practice. That’s a mental issue, not a physical issue.”
Ahead of his LIV debut, when asked about his reason for the switch, he recalled a story about watching the tour with his 10-year old son, who was seemingly captivated by the team names. “I had surgery, and my son is sitting with me in my bed, and how I signed up with LIV is my 10-year-old son was sitting in the bed with me, and we were watching golf on the TV, and he knew the Aces — everybody knows the Aces, they keep winning,” Watson said.