TIGER Woods has shrugged off fears that his hopes of playing in next month’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool could be destroyed by an early return from back surgery this week.
The 14-times major winner missed the season’s opening two majors after last playing competitively in early March, when he finally succumbed to an injury that had flared up on and off since last year’s FedEx Cup play-offs. Speaking yesterday, Woods admitted he wouldn’t be returning to action in this week’s Quicken Loans National if it wasn’t for the fact that the PGA Tour event at Congressional benefits his foundation, with the tournament host set to pay a visit to the White House last night along with his girlfriend, Lindsay Vonn.
However, the 38-year-old insists he is not taking any risks and feels totally confident he will be back on Merseyside in three weeks’ time bidding to repeat his success there in the game’s oldest major in 2006.
“I’ve healed fast,” declared Woods. “I thought the British Open would be my first event back, but I’m ahead of schedule. All the strengthening exercises I’ve done over the years have paid off and allowed me to get back quicker.”
His comments immediately sparked a buzz of excitement on Twitter, with huge crowds now guaranteed at Hoylake as the American bids to claim the Claret Jug for a fourth time.
“The risk is minimal,” added Woods of his return this week. “Before the procedure, I wasn’t able to do the practice routines I’m accustomed to doing but now I’m back to normal – there are no issues.”
Woods’ win eight years ago, when he posted an 18-under-par total to win by two shots from compatriot Chris DiMarco, was his last success in the Open Championship. His last major victory came in the 2008 US Open, soon after which he had surgery on an Achilles injury.
“I’m pain-free for probably the first time in a good two years,” said Woods, who starts his comeback as the world No 5. Asked if he could return with a win, he added: “That’s the ultimate goal – it’s just going to be a little harder this time.”