Tiger Woods admitted Tuesday morning he didn't think he'd be far enough along in the rehabilitation process following back surgery in late March to be playing this week at the Quicken Loans National, but here he is.
"I'm probably ahead of schedule from where everyone thought I'd be at," Woods said during his news conference. "The British Open was supposed to be my first event back. I healed extremely fast. It's been an interesting road. It was quite a tedious little process. but I'm to the point where I can play competitive golf again and I'm excited."
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Woods said with the assistance of his surgeon and trainers, training exercises and cold treatments allowed him to "bounce back fast." Starting with the putter, Woods was able to progress to full swings with different clubs, eventally hitting drivers and playing rounds.
"The whole progression was putting first," Woods said. "You can putt the next day, hop right out of the recovery room and you're OK to putt. But I wasn't allowed to bend over and pick the balls out of the cup. ... Then chipping and pitching, adding about 10 yards every day to two days, depending on how I felt. I got to the point where I was hitting drivers a couple of weeks ago, and then started playing golf. I wanted to knock off some rust on the range so I didn't go out and embarrass myself. The worst thing is to sit in the cart. Sometimes I'll ride on the back of the cart, standing up, so I could get in a few more holes."
The scores didn't matter, Woods said, although he admitted he was very rusty right off the bat.
"I broke 50 for nine holes, just like i did when I was 3," Woods said with a smile. "I'm sneaking up on it. My prime's coming up."
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Woods said it's probably been two years since he's felt this good. First, it was the Achilles tendon that bothered him, then his back started acting up.
"It was week-to-week," Woods said. "There were times when it felt great -- I won five times last year -- and then others where it was so bad, I had to pull out of an event."
By the time the Florida swing came around in March, Woods said his back was so bad -- and the pain shooting down his leg was so debilitating -- he realized surgery was the only option.
"Pre-procedure, I wasn't able to function, I couldn't get out of bed, do any normal activities," Woods said. "When I had the issues with my knee and my Achilles, I was still able to do things. Anyone who has had nerve impingment, it's no joke. [After the surgery], that pain going down my leg was gone. It's like getting your life back."
After this week, Woods and his doctors will see how things went. His plan as of now is to take time off until the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 17-20.
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So does he think he can win this weekend? Of course, Woods said. Why else would he be here?
"Expectations don't change," he said. "That's the utlimate goal. It's justgoing to be harder this time. But I'm good enough to play and going to give it a go."