Tiger and Jeter play golf, and only 1 of them is retired

And there were the usual puffed-chest, sound-bite-quality reminders of his legendary competitiveness.

"I really hope he comes back well, but it's going to be tough", observed Nick Dougherty, who describes playing with Woods in the third round of the 2007 US Open at Oakmont as his "best day in golf" and that's coming from someone who recorded one of his three European Tour triumphs at St Andrews in the 2007 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

"I'm going to try and do the same thing I always do", he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

One of the major narratives of this week's Hero World Challenge - OK, the only narrative of this week - is how Tiger Woods will perform in his first competitive golf tournament since the Wyndham Championship in 2015.

Given the strength of the field and the fact that he has not played tournament golf in almost 15 months, Woods set the expectations low.

"I'm not dead. I'm ready to go", he told ESPN.

Woods delivered a strong indication he is ready for his comeback after a 16-month layoff when out-driving Olympic champion Justin Rose at Nassau's Albany Club in the Bahamas on Monday. By the time he steps on the first tee on Thursday, a total of 466 days will have passed since he last hit a ball in anger on a golf course. None of the other 17 players in the field are ranked outside the top 40. Woods hit shots on a simulator and was intrigued by the duo's strapping system concept - created to help keep him secure through his swing and a full day of golf. Guys have played into their 70s and 80s but they are not competing at a world class level.

"He never played golf when he played baseball", Woods said after going nine holes with Jeter. "Beating the brains out" is what top-flight competition brings with it, and the "needling" inside the ropes was missed.

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"As the week goes on, I can give you more detailed answers on where I'm at and the feel that I have, but as of right now I'm still at the beginning stages of that process", he said. Would I like to play a full schedule for the next decade-plus? Yeah. But can I?

It's understandable that Woods wouldn't want anyone to touch the '97 Masters putter or the one he is now using, but that Masters putter should be locked in a glass case with alarms and laser beams protecting it ... unless of course he plans on using it on the course again! A year ago, he was recovering from yet another surgery, but because the Hero World Challenge benefits his foundation, he showed up anyway, leaving reporters with a foreboding view of his future. OK, that's different than walking a golf course. It's about controlling it and how fast I can get in the flow.

"I think he's been away from the game for a long time". You asked me then, 'Could I play?' No. He says the reason he offered such a bleak outlook past year at this tournament was because he struggled to get out of bed, much less swing a club. "That's just two different worlds".

Six weeks ago, Woods was set to return at the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif., but withdrew at the last instant, leading to yet another round of dire speculation about his future. "And I love it", Els said. "As hard as it was on me to take it off and pull out of the event, it was a smart thing to do even though as a competitive athlete it killed me inside. I want to compete".

"But then being away from the game has allowed me to a number of other things like unify all my brands under TGR, and to also spend as much time with my children, Charlie and Sam". What's a couple more months? Let's be a little more patient, a little smarter.

"It was that period of a month or two, I just couldn't get out of bed". I'm entered in this event, and I'm going to try and win. "Get myself in that mix come Sunday afternoon".

Woods seemed a man alone during much of his career's success and after his infamous sex scandal, but has kindled new friendships from a new generation of tour players, those he inspired rather than dominated. It hasn't been easy. "It's taken a lot of work, but I'm here".

  • Lawrence Cooper