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Tiger ready to roar after return from surgery

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Tiger Woods takes a swing at the driving range in preparation for the Quicken Loans National golf tournament, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Bethesda, Md.

NICK WASS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Tiger Woods takes a swing at the driving range in preparation for the Quicken Loans National golf tournament, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Bethesda, Md.

BETHESDA, Md. -- Tuesday, Tiger Woods was talking about his improvement from back surgery.

And his golf game. And the future.

That is a change for the star golfer who has spent a lot of time talking solely about his injuries. And the past.

Woods, who has not played competitively since undergoing back surgery March 31, will tee it up Thursday in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club. The tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Woods talked about that return at a press conference at Congressional.

"Well, I'm right here," Woods joked when asked where he was in his comeback, adding it has been an "interesting road" and "quite a tedious little process. I got to a point where I can play competitive golf again, and it's pretty exciting."

He did admit the "goal was the British Open" and he "probably would not" have played this week if he didn't have a connection to the tournament.

As far as being competitive this week, it was no surprise that Woods still has his eye on the prize.

"Expectations don't change," he said. "That's the ultimate goal. It's just that it's going to be a little bit harder this time. I just haven't had the amount of prep and reps that I would like, but I'm good enough to play and I'm going to give it a go."

It won't all be work for Woods. Later Tuesday he'll be visiting the White House along with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn as U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes the 2013 Presidents Cup team.

The 14-time major winner has already missed the Masters and the U.S. Open this season and the British Open in July was thought to be something Woods was shooting for.

However, his appearance this week seems to have sped up the process.

"Well, I'm actually probably ahead of schedule than -- well, everyone thought I would be at. We all thought... the British Open would be my first event back. But I healed fast," Woods said.

"When you get treatment all the time, it's amazing what you can do. And also, nutritionally, making sure I eat perfect. Anti-inflammatory meals, all the different things I needed to do to get back. People take -- it's a normality in other sports. If you play football or hockey or any other sport, this is just common. But I think in the golfing world, looking at most of the physiques, it's not really that common. But having friends who are in other sports, it does help what they went through and what they have done and what their protocols are for their teams. You know, here we are."

Playing wounded is nothing new for Woods, who has had four surgeries to his left knee along with Achilles, elbow and neck problems.

Woods said "this was different," with the back keeping him from even getting out of bed in the morning."

The last major victory for Woods was the 2008 U.S. Open.

Even the competition is happy to see Woods return.

"Tiger is the driving force behind our game and we need him playing and we need him playing well," Brandt Snedeker said. "We've missed him out here. Obviously, the TV ratings haven't been where they need to be the last six months and he's a large part to that. More than that he brings in the casual fan, which we haven't had the last few months."

Former tour player and current Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee had the same reaction as Snedeker and also hopes Woods isn't returning too soon.

"He's the most impactful man in the history of golf in terms of interest and ratings. And there is nobody that even comes close to filling that void," said Chamblee. "So it's exciting to have Tiger Woods back in a field. The possibility that the whole world is going to tune in is there."

 

-- McClatchey News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2014 C6

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