Top field for World Challenge as Tiger returns

"I've come out the other side and I feel fantastic". I didn't realize how bad my back was.

On Tuesday, the victor of 79 PGA titles looked happy just to be able to play.

The following year, he elected to have the first of what turned out to be three microdiscectomies that were meant to alleviate a disk issue.

"I would love to give you a better answer but I just really don't know yet", the 14-time major victor told Golf Channel.

"I said, "Ain't it neat to meet a living legend" and she said, 'Yeah we live with one, ' " Woods added.

"The fact that I don't have any pain in my lower back compared to what I was living with for years, it's just remarkable", Woods told reporters on Sunday after a speedy practice round at Albany, where he will make his first start in nearly nine months at this week's Hero World Challenge.

"I remembered what my dad said. It was a slow process and I just didn't truly understand how far I'd fallen in that regard", he continued. The field also includes the European Tour's Race to Dubai victor Tommy Fleetwood and the red-hot Justin Rose, the 2016 Olympic gold medallist. "I have been struggling for years now and to finally come out of it now, (I) feel very blessed". "I thought I had some speed, thought I was playing halfway decent, shot some good scores, but now I've looked back on it and man, I didn't even have much at all".

Early indications are that Woods is in a much better spot than when he returned a year ago in the Bahamas. He is scheduled to play the first round of the Hero with PGA champ Thomas - with whom he's never played a competitive round on the PGA Tour.

"I've progressed over a few days, hitting driver a little hard and harder and harder until it was comfortable enough to hit it full", Woods said about the evolution of his current swing. "That's so exciting; you have no idea how exciting that is, and I'm just so thankful that I've had this procedure and gotten to this point".

"It's just great to see him back feeling good within himself, and his golf can build from there".

"He looked great. I think more than anything, he looked at ease". I wanted to see that. That was more about the quality of life than trying to win a golf tournament.

"I'm winging this because I don't know what my body can and can't do yet". He's not talking about winning or contending.

  • Stacy Allen