GOLF: Woods says expectation still ‘to win’ in return at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

 

Twelve weeks since he last was seen with a golf club in his
hand, Tiger Woods pronounced himself

good to go

on Tuesday and said his own expectations haven’t changed in his
competitive return.
By Jeff Shain – The Orlando Sentinel

AKRON, Ohio – Twelve weeks since he last was seen with a golf club in his hand, Tiger Woods pronounced himself “good to go” on Tuesday and said his own expectations haven’t changed in his competitive return.

“My expectation is to win,” Woods said after nine holes of practice for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Things have gone so well, he added, that he considered entering last week’s Greenbrier Classic before deciding to take one extra week of caution. Asked how long it’s been since he felt as good physically as he does now, Woods responded: “Years.”

Pressed for a more specific number, he replied: “Plural. … Just plural.”

Woods hasn’t hit a competitive shot since a nine-hole cameo at The Players Championship, where he withdrew when he aggravated the sprained left knee and Achilles tendon originally suffered four weeks earlier at the Masters.

He subsequently pulled out of four more tournaments, including the U.S. Open and British Open, to let the injuries fully rest and go through rehabilitation. Woods disclosed that he’d been putting and chipping for several weeks, but could cut loose on a driver only “2-3 weeks ago.”

Even so, it appears much of that work was done in private. Swing coach Sean Foley told reporters early last week that they hadn’t done any work together since The Players.

Said Woods: “The shots felt very crisp, very clean. I was very pleased. … Everything that we’ve been working on, we’re very pleased with today. I’ve just got to keep working at it.”

The proof, of course, will come starting Thursday in a tournament that he’s won seven times. But it also was the site last year of one of his biggest competitive lows, never breaking par and finishing 30 shots behind winner Hunter Mahan.

Woods also confirmed that longtime friend Bryon Bell will serve as his caddie both this week and at next week’s PGA Championship. Woods fired Steve Williams during the layoff, ending a 12-year working relationship.

“We had a nice conversation,” Woods said. “It was a tough conversation, but we said what we needed to say to each other – face to face and man to man.”

Williams, who had been moonlighting on Adam Scott’s bag during the layoff, now works for Scott full-time. Woods said he has no timetable on a replacement, but emphasized that Bell is an “interim” solution.

Bell was Woods’ caddie during some of his amateur wins, including the 1996 U.S. Amateur in his last event before turning professional.

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