Tiger Woods. Picture: REUTERS
Tiger Woods. Picture: REUTERS

Paramus — Fourteen-time Major winner Tiger Woods says the support he has received from the galleries in 2018 shows how "appreciative" fans are of his latest comeback effort.

The 42-year-old underwent a fourth back operation in April 2017 that caused him to question whether he would ever play competitive golf again. But since his return to the sport in November, Woods has gradually played his way into form and looked close to his best when he finished second at the recent PGA Championship.

"I think people are more appreciative," Woods said ahead of a practice round at Ridgewood Country Club on Tuesday. "They’ve all gone through it — when you get to your 40s, you’re feeling it. They know I’m at the tail-end of my career. I don’t know how many years I’ve got left, but I’m certain I’m not like I was when I was 22. At 42, it’s a different ball game."

Woods, who is eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time since 2013, will tee off on Thursday at the Northern Trust, the first of the four events.

He is undaunted by the prospect of having to play three consecutive tournaments for the first time in more than five years to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship.

"That’s a lot of golf [coming up]," he said. "It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practice too much and don’t overdo it and making sure my training schedule goes well.

"One of the hardest things from this year is trying to find the right balance, but as the summer has gone on I’ve improved," he said.

Woods finished 11th in the US standings, outside the eight players who qualified automatically for the US Ryder Cup team after the PGA Championship, but is a strong contender to be named as one of Jim Furyk’s four captains picks.

The former world No1 is on the team as a vice-captain, a role he filled at the 2016 Ryder Cup and 2017 Presidents Cup while out with his back injury.

Woods, however, is determined to travel as a player.

"I want to be picked and I want to be part of the team," he said. "The interesting role here is that I’m a vice-captain, so we’re talking about myself in the third person a lot.

"So, that’s one of the more interesting conversations we were having."