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PGA Golf

Tiger Woods is pain-free for first time in years, plans to play in British Open

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The news that Tiger Woods will play in the Quicken Loans National this week was greeted with great fanfare by fans, but arguably even more so by the PGA Tour, as ratings, advertising revenue, interest … well, pretty much everything improves when Tiger is playing. The same thing can be said for Woods’ once-ailing and now surgically repaired back, apparently, as well.

Woods insists that his grand return to competitive golf this week hinged on his personal affiliation with the tournament through his Tiger Woods Foundation and that had it been some other random tourney, he may have held off a week or two longer.

“If this wasn’t the foundation and our impact that we can have with kids, I probably would not have played,” Woods said. “Our goal was the British Open.”

The Open Championship will be held at Royal Liverpool in mid-July. Woods’ timetable presumably would have involved at least one or two warmup tournaments before competing in a major, so his desire to compete in a tournament he and his charity are heavily involved in only bumped up his assumed plans a week or two at best.

Woods admits he recovered more quickly than perhaps both he and his team expected, but not without total effort and complete commitment to a program involving essentially every single facet of rehab and recuperation.

“I healed extremely fast, thanks to my physios, and all my nutrition and all the different things that we did and the protocols and the MRIs, and all the different steps that we have done along the way have allowed me to get to this point,” Woods stressed.

The last time Woods played competitively was in early March at the WGC-Cadillac Championship before deciding to undergo microdiscectomy surgery later that month.

Perhaps the most encouraging news to emerge from comments Woods made to the press on Tuesday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., was that he claimed to be pain-free not only for the first time since his surgery but for a period of time much longer than the past several months. In fact, Tiger claims this is the first time he has been completely free of pain in about two years.

Even though no one should expect Woods to come out and be the Tiger Woods of old — if that ever happens again at all — in his first tournament back, the 38-year-old insists he intends to go out and try to win the tournament, same as he does every time he competes.

“Expectations don’t change,” Woods said. “[Winning] is the ultimate goal. It’s just that it’s going to be a little bit harder this time. I just haven’t had the amount of preps and reps that I would like, but I’m good enough to play and I am going to give it a go.”

Give Woods has been stuck at 14 major victories for what seems like an eternity and with the British Open and PGA Championship the only majors on the calendar Woods can play in this season after missing the Masters and the U.S. Open, time is of the essence if he hopes to catch Jack Nicklaus, if that hope remains at all.

Woods isn’t getting any younger and with every breakdown his body suffers — something that is occurring with more frequency as the years add up — there’s no time like the present to get things, pardon the pun, “back” on track.

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