NASSAU, Bahamas – Tiger Woods was up early on Sunday at Albany, site of this week’s Hero World Challenge, getting in some final work before his first competitive start since February.
Woods raced around the layout in 2 hours, 10 minutes riding in a golf cart and looking relaxed and fit following fusion surgery on his back in April.
“I haven’t really competed in two years, really. I haven’t really done much. I’m looking forward to competing again and finding the rhythm and the feel of playing tournament golf and just hitting shots,” said Woods, who was joined by caddie Joe LaCava on Sunday. “I haven’t really had a scorecard in my hand in a while and that’s going to be different.”
Woods, who withdrew from the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms in February, played a casual round of golf with President Donald Trump, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Brad Faxon in South Florida on Friday.
It was another step closer to competition for Woods.
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“[Johnson is] the No. 1 player in the world. He’s been playing, I haven’t been playing,” Woods said. “It’s nice to compare my game to some of the other guys, like Dustin or Rickie [Fowler] or Rory [McIlroy]. It’s nice to do something like that and compete and have a couple little denominations [a bet] we’re playing for. I like seeing where I’m at.”
Woods, who is the host of this week’s Hero World Challenge, announced last month he planned to play the limited-field event and he’s posted various videos on social media of his swing.
Fowler told Golf.com that Woods has been driving it by him, and according to Faxon, Woods hit it by Johnson on half the holes when both players hit driver. On Sunday, Woods was asked about his swing.
“I am a little surprised,” Woods said. “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 added that the recovery process from April’s surgery, his fourth procedure on his back, has been slow, but he’s been encouraged by how his body has responded.
Woods explained that his surgeon initially cleared him to start hitting putts, which had been the most difficult thing to do before the surgery, and he gradually made his way through his bag, first hitting driver just 150 yards.
“I just chipped [driver]. I was like, ‘Yep, I hit driver today,’” Woods laughed. “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. That takes time and the last thing I want to do is have any setbacks.”
As for his expectations this week at Albany, Woods said he wasn’t sure how he would play, but he is encouraged by how his body has responded the last few weeks and glad to be pain-free.
“It could be the next step, I just don’t know and that’s tough to live with. It’s been a struggle for years,” he said. “To finally come out on the good side of it, it’s exciting. I am stiffer, I’m fused. But I don’t have the pain and if I don’t have the pain, life is so much better.”