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Tiger Woods is dreaming of a triumphant comeback after 15-month lay-off

By Robert Jones

Tiger Woods partly measures success just by being able to compete at the Hero World Challenge, where the former World No.1 returns from the longest lay-off of his career tomorrow.

A back injury has sidelined the 14-time Major champion since August of last year and at this event a year ago, he wondered if he would ever play again.

“I’m playing again after 15 months of not competing,” Woods said. “It was that period of a month or two, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I needed help. It was a tough time.

“It’s just two different worlds. Things have improved so much I’m able to be here. It hasn’t been easy. It has been a lot of hard work.

“Hopefully I can get out there and shoot something. I’m going to have to get after it and see what happens.”

The 18-player invitational event hosted by Woods’ charity foundation will be played on a 7,267-yard, par-72 layout designed by Ernie Els at the Albany resort, featuring natural brush and sand. Bubba Watson is the defending champion.

“I’m going to try to win this thing,” Woods said. “I know Bubba went low, shot 25 under. That’s going to be a tall order. But I’m going to give it my best. I’m going to be focused, I’m going to do what I can do and get myself in that mix.”

Woods has not played competitively since August 2015 at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. He underwent back surgery a few weeks later and missed the entire 2015-16 season recovering.

He said: “I would like to play a full schedule. Will I be able to? That I don’t know.”

Woods, four shy of the all-time record of Jack Nicklaus, has not won a Major since the 2008 US Open and has fallen to 898th in the world rankings, even joking his goal will be a top 1,000 ranking.

“There are nerves. I care about what I’m doing,” Woods said. “It’s about controlling it and how fast I can get in the flow. I need to find the flow of the round. Hopefully I can do that quickly.”

Woods had planned a return in October at the US PGA season opener but withdrew, saying he was not quite ready to return.

“Why try to pull it off when I could wait and be ready?” he added. “I made the right decision.”

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