Tiger Woods. Picture: JOHN DAVID MERCER/US TODAY
Tiger Woods. Picture: JOHN DAVID MERCER/US TODAY

Los Angeles — Tiger Woods said on Monday he was confident his 41-year-old body could cope with playing in four golf tournaments over the next five weeks.

The 14-time Major winner, who returned to golf in December at the Hero World Challenge following a 15-month injury layoff, has committed to a hectic schedule that will lead to him opening his 2017 season at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.

"I have played one time in the last 18 months," Woods said. "I just need to get in some tournament golf. I am looking forward to it."

After the Farmers at the Torrey Pines course, Woods will fly to the United Arab Emirates for the Dubai Desert Classic from February 2-5, followed by the Genesis Open at Riviera, California on February 16-19. He then travels to Florida to take part in the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens (February 23-26).

The Farmers Open will be Woods’s first full field tournament since undergoing back surgery in 2015.

Asked if he is physically up to the task with all the injuries he has endured, Woods said: "That is a concern, but I am looking forward to it. I feel I am strong enough to handle the workload.

"I sat out long enough. I have been on the sidelines so long."

Woods admitted he once doubted whether he would return to golf. "There was a time when I didn’t know if I could ever swing a golf club again and play with my kids," he said.

Woods may be far from his top form, but he says he still has his sights set on competing in the Majors and his first order of business is the Masters in April.

"I am hoping to get everything right so I can play. I am thinking about it [Masters] now," he said.

Woods, once world No 1, has won the PGA Tour’s Torrey Pines tournament seven times in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2013.

"It was the first PGA tournament I went to," Woods said. "So I got exposed to pro golf there."

Woods last won a Major title at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines by beating Rocco Mediate in an epic 19-hole playoff despite playing with an injured left knee that later required surgery

Woods last won a Major title at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines by beating Rocco Mediate in an epic 19-hole playoff despite playing with an injured left knee that later required surgery. His last PGA title was at the 2013 WGC event in Akron, Ohio.

When he tees it up at historic Riviera in just over three weeks, it will be his first appearance in the event in 11 years.

"I have always loved playing this course. I just never played it well," Woods said. "I played here as a junior, an amateur and a professional. It is special place."

Last month, Woods played golf with Donald Trump at Trump International Golf Club in Florida. He described Trump as a big hitter and said the 70-year-old was able to walk the entire 18 holes with him.

"For a person who is 70 he hits it hard," said Woods. "He keeps himself in pretty good shape. We walked all 18 holes and had a great time."

Asked if Trump could shoot a score of under 80 at the Riviera course, Woods paused, smiled and said: "Not today. It is too wet out there."

In addition to finding his form, this year Woods will be facing a new crop of rising young stars such as top-ranked Australian Jason Day, Japanese ace Hideki Matsuyama, four-time Major winner Rory
McIlroy, eight-time PGA Tour winner Jordan Spieth and the hottest player on the Tour, Justin Thomas, who has won three tournaments so far this season.

Woods says he has not lost the passion for the game that made him one of the best of all time. "I am very excited about getting the season started. I miss playing and competing," said Woods, whose 14 Major titles is second to only Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18.

AFP

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