Tiger Woods back to his best for Hero Challenge
GOLF: Tiger Woods insists he's come out the "other side” after years of relying on pain medication and is relishing his return to tournament play for the first time in 10 months.
"I'm loving life now,” the former world No.1 said.
Woods will make his return to competition on Thursday (Friday morning AEDT) at the Hero World Challenge, an 18-man event with no cut at the Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.
It's his first time competing since fusion surgery in April, the fourth operation on his back, the first one right before the 2014 Masters.
Woods made a return to competition in the Bahamas 12 months ago after 15 months away from the game. Less than two months later he managed just one round of an event in Dubai before withdrawing with back spasms.
But early indications are that Woods is in a much better spot now than when he returned a year ago.
Those who have played with him in recent weeks say his swing looks faster and more fluid, and Woods appears to be happy and healthy.
"People are going to be shocked at how good his game looks,” PGA champion Justin Thomas said.
Woods reached a low point on May 29 when he was arrested in the middle of the night after Florida police found his car parked awkwardly on the side of the road about 15 miles from his home, with Woods asleep behind the wheel, the engine running.
Toxicology reports revealed that Woods had two painkillers, a sleep drug, an anti-anxiety drug and the active ingredient for marijuana in his system.
He underwent treatment program to deal with prescription medication and last month pleaded guilty to a reckless driving charge that allowed him to avoid jail time.
"I've come out the other side and I feel fantastic,” Woods said.
"I didn't realise how bad my back was. Now that I'm feeling the way I'm feeling, it's just hard to imagine that I was living the way I was living with my foot not working, my leg not working and then the hours of not being able to sleep at all because of the pain.”
Woods attributed his arrest to "trying to go away from the pain.”
"I was trying to sleep, which I hadn't done in a very long time because of the things I've been dealing with,” he said.
"So as my back improved, I've been able to start sleeping again because I don't have the nerve pain going down my leg. I don't have my leg twitching all over the place. I don't have these issues anymore.”
Woods hasn't won since the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational, his 79th title on the PGA Tour that leaves him three short of tying Sam Snead's record.