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Injury-plagued Tiger Woods plans return to competitive fray

By Phil Casey

Former world number one Tiger Woods has officially entered next week's Safeway Open as he edges nearer to competing in his first PGA Tour event since August 2015.

Woods, who has been sidelined by serious back problems, said last month he planned to play four events before the end of the year, starting with the Tiger Woods Invitational on the Monterey Peninsula, California, on October 10.

The 40-year-old will then head north to Napa for the Safeway Open from October 13-16 and, if all goes to plan, Woods will play on the European Tour in the Turkish Airlines Open in November and the Hero World Challenge, which is hosted by his own foundation, in the Bahamas.

Woods has undergone three back operations in the space of 19 months and has not won on the PGA Tour since the Bridgestone Invitational in 2013.

The 14-time major winner served as a vice-captain to Davis Love as the United States won the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine last week and will perform the same role for Steve Stricker at the 2017 Presidents Cup, if he fails to make the team.

His participation in the Safeway Open was announced in a statement from the PGA Tour, several hours ahead of the 5pm EST deadline for entries.

Meanwhile, England's Ross Fisher has already set his sights on helping Europe regain the Ryder Cup after being a frustrated spectator for last week's defeat at Hazeltine.

Fisher, who carded a second round of 68 to claim a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, was part of the winning team at Celtic Manor in 2010, but failed to qualify for any of the last three biennial contests.

"The juices were definitely flowing," Fisher said.

"I'm sure all the Europeans will be fighting to make the team for Paris National in 2018, including myself. I would love to be there."

At 11 under par he enjoyed a one-shot lead over Sweden's Joakim Lagergren, whose 68 came at Kingsbarns, where first-round leader Alex Noren shot a 71 to finish nine under.

Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters is five shots off the pace after a 68 at Kingsbarns.

Masters champion Danny Willett and compatriot Matt Fitzpatrick face a battle to make the 54-hole cut after rounds of 73 left them two and six over par respectively.

Shane Lowry is on four under par while Graeme McDowell is a shot further back and Michael Hoey is one over par.

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