BETHESDA: Tiger Woods returns to competition on Thursday (Friday in Manila) saying he is pain free and healthy for the first time in two years and eager to add to his 14 major titles.
The 38-year-old American, sidelined for three months following back surgery to ease a pinched nerve, begins his comeback at the $6.5 million US PGA National at Congressional Country Club.
“I’m actually probably ahead of schedule, where everyone thought I would be at,” Woods said. “It has been a very, very long time, probably a good two years since I’ve felt this way.”
Woods admitted on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) that he probably would not have returned this week if it were not an event that benefits his charity foundation, his original goal having been to return in three weeks at the British Open at Royal Liverpool.
“We all thought the British Open would be my first event back, but I healed fast,” said Woods, who credited his physical therapists and attention to nutrition with speeding his recovery.
Woods, who was toppled from atop the world rankings last month and is rated fifth this week, says that despite the nagging knee, leg and back injuries that have bothered him in recent years, he sees only minimal risk of reinjuring himself by returning sooner than first planned.
“I’m going to get stronger as time goes on,” Woods said. “The risk is minimal, and just like it is with every round we play, we can hit behind a tree root and damage something . . . I’m no different in that regard.”
Woods last lifted a major trophy at the 2008 US Open. He confirmed that he plans to resume his quest to pass the all-time record of 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus in the British Open next month at Royal Liverpool, where he won the Claret Jug in 2006.
This week, Woods is aiming at winning his first title in 13 months and 80th career PGA crown.