FOR ONE DAY, at least, Chase Utley's knee wasn't the most famous joint in town.
The day after Utley returned to play second base for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, Tiger Woods spent most of his 25-minute news conference yesterday answering questions about his famously injured left knee: its condition, its past, its future.
Briefly: The knee hurts. There are no immediate plans for surgery or replacement. It might be ready for the U.S. Open.
"I'm trying to hopefully get ready for the Open, and anything beyond that, I don't know," Woods said.
Woods spoke at Aronimink Golf Club, which, for the second and final year, is the replacement site for the AT & T National, the tournament that benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation. The usual site, Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., has been unavailable as it is being prepared to host the U.S. Open next month.
The AT & T begins June 30. Woods plans to play.
In his quest to eclipse Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships, Woods dearly wants to return from the latest episode involving his left knee. Two weeks ago, he withdrew after nine holes of The Players Championship when he aggravated the knee and his chronic Achilles' tendon injury, which underwent surgery in April after he injured both at the Masters. It was the fourth surgery on his knee.
Since withdrawing from TPC, Woods has worn a walking boot to help the Achilles' issue and has used crutches to help his knee heal. He used neither yesterday. He said he will begin rebuilding the muscle around the mildly atrophied knee next week.
He appeared remarkably calm for a person as driven as he is. The inaction might be hurting his game - on Monday, he dropped out of the world's top 10 for the first time since 1997 - but, at 35, the new 12th-ranked golfer in the world has not been idle.
"I've actually been with my kids a lot," Woods said. "That's been fantastic."
Infamously, Woods' bizarre car accident, the resultant infidelity revelations, and his divorce, which occurred over a period from late 2009 through 2010, left him with predictably stressful family issues.
He has spent these past 2 weeks, which would have been used playing and preparing for the meat of the golf season, further rebuilding his relationships with his two young children - perhaps the reason his demeanor was so affable, despite his inactivity.
But make no mistake: He is chafing.
Woods has played in only 18 PGA events since the Thanksgiving Night crackup outside his home in Orlando in 2009. That inactivity cost him his No. 1 world ranking, and when he has played, he has not been dominant. His best finishes were three fourth places.
"Obviously, I haven't played. That's one of the reasons why I've fallen as far as I have. When I did play, I haven't played well," Woods said. "But winning takes care of all of that."
Woods might be weeks away from playing, but he might be months away from winning. After his BMW win in late 2009, he destroyed his personal life and overhauled his swing.
The swing has caused the golf macaws to crow endlessly. Crabby analyst Johnny Miller proposed that Woods' practice swing was different from his playing swing.
"Johnny knows everything, doesn't he?" Woods asked with a derisive chuckle. "No, it's not quite that way, no."
Different or identical, the swings might be seen soon, or not. It all depends on how Woods responds to rehab and treatment.
He cannot say when he will begin to practice golf again. He cannot say he will play at the Memorial Tournament, which Nicklaus hosts and which begins June 2: "The Memorial's doubtful."
Woods learned his lesson, he said, by coming back too quickly for The Players Championship. He withdrew on the first day after shooting a front-nine 42 - and said, he was "borderline" for that tournament, too.
So, it sounds as if the U.S. Open on June 16 is the better bet.
"That's why I shut it down," Woods said.
Playing in the Memorial cannot compare with chasing major titles.
"I still have plenty of time, and I feel that, going forward, I'm excited about playing major championships and playing golf again," said Woods, who has won 14 majors since 1997, the lat in 2008. "I just want to be healthy and solid, and I feel like I can give it a go."
No matter how long Woods waits, it appears he never will be totally solid, totally healthy, totally pain-free. He acknowledged yesterday that, in 2009, he won six times in 16 events, even though he constantly played in pain related to reconstructive left knee surgery and the broken left tibia - injuries he played on in winning the 2008 U.S. Open.
Still, with arthritis and swelling and strains, his doctors have not advised further surgeries. No conversations have taken place about a knee replacement in his future, either.
Pointed questions about future procedures were the only times during the 25-minute give-and-take that Tiger's tiresome terseness surfaced. Otherwise, he generally was affable.
He recounted expansion plans for his foundation's learning centers, including one at a KIPP school in Philadelphia. He evaluated the development of depth on the PGA Tour. He acknowledged that his huge length advantage had dwindled over the years.
Before the Q & A session, Woods tweeted he would donate $1 million to his foundation if no one asked a question about the knee. After the conference, predictably, Woods tweeted that he would donate the money, anyway.
Utley made no such promises, before or after his return. *