(Reuters) - Tiger Woods makes another return to competitive golf this week and despite 10 months on the sidelines recovering from a fourth back surgery, the 14-time major winner’s goal remains the same -- to win.
While Woods’s famous competitive fires continue to rage the former world number one conceded he may have to temper his expectations at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
He takes on an elite 18-player field that includes eight of the top 10 in the current world rankings.
“I just really want to be able to compete this week, play all four days and give myself a chance on the back nine on Sunday to win this thing,” a relaxed and smiling Woods told a news conference on Tuesday from the Albany Club.
“I don’t know where I‘m at, I don’t know how hard I can hit, what shots can I play. I don’t know what the future entails in that regard because I am still learning this body.”
This marks the third time Woods, 41, has attempted a comeback at the Hero World Challenge, the charity event he hosts.
Just last year Woods made a similar return at the Hero following a 16-month hiatus for previous back surgeries and the initial reports were upbeat after he completed four rounds.
Yet two months later he succumbed to more back pain and returned to the operating table.
Woods, however, insists it is different this time.
”I was still struggling with some nerve issues down my leg when I came back at Isleworth (the previous venue for the event), last year I was the same but it was not where it’s at now,“ said Woods. ”It’s different than my prior two comebacks at this event. Last year I was still struggling and this year is night and day.
“There’s still some apprehension going forward and no doubt this week is a big step for me, to be able to play golf, be explosive and hit shots.”
Woods said he has made no plans on his competitive future beyond the Hero World Challenge.
While the state of his game remains a big question mark, he made it clear that he has undergone a dramatic improvement in his quality of life.
”The neatest thing for me is to be able to get up out of bed and I can grab a club and not use it as a crutch,“ smiled Woods. ”Now I‘m able to take a swing, you have no idea how exciting that is, I‘m just so thankful I’ve had this procedure and am back to this point.
“I’ve only been doing this for a month, give me a little more time. Let me play this event and see what I can or can’t do and I will have a better understanding once I‘m at game speed.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis