Pain-free Woods is raring to go

Dustin Johnson and Woods Getty Images

Dustin Johnson and Woods Getty Images

"The fact that I don't have any pain in my lower back compared to what I was living with for years, it's just remarkable", Woods told reporters on Sunday after a speedy practice round at Albany, where he will make his first start in nearly nine months at this week's Hero World Challenge.

The Hero World Challenge is held at Albany Golf Course in New Providence, Bahamas.

Former world No.1 Woods is now ranked 1199th and is a 40-1 outsider in the 18-man field, which features several players who grew up as some of his biggest fans.

"I am stiffer. I'm fused [following April's lumbar fusion], but I don't have the pain", added Woods, who was back on the tee Monday morning. He never spoke of being in pain previous year, or even at Torrey Pines in January. He tied Woods for the birdie lead past year in the Bahamas and won at 18-under 270, two shots ahead of Sweden's Henrik Stenson.

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The 14-time major champion also discussed his tempered expectations moving forward and sounded extremely reasonable in what he expects from his game.

"I've progressed over a few days, hitting driver a little hard and harder and harder until it was comfortable enough to hit it full", Woods said about the evolution of his current swing.

"They have been great at trying to help me come back".

"I would like to say that I am here to win this damn thing, but this is different".

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"I'm winging this because I don't know what my body can and can't do yet". One player, Justin Rose, withdrew after the first round.

Woods made no prognostications about whether he would score better than his 15th-place finish at last year's World Challenge. Also in action will be the European Tour's Race to Dubai victor Tommy Fleetwood and the red-hot Justin Rose, the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist.

The field also has Fowler, Stenson, Kuchar and Kisner, all of whom won on the PGA Tour in 2017.

The tournament is a four-round, 72-hole stroke play event with a Dollars 1 million winner's prize and official world ranking points awarded.

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The field for the United States dollars 3.5 million event is led by Dustin Johnson, who has held the number one spot since February 2017, and includes three of the year's major championship winners U.S. Open victor Brooks Koepka, The Open Championship victor Jordan Spieth and PGA Championship victor Justin Thomas, who also won the PGA TOUR's 2017 FedExCup title and was also adjudged the PGA TOUR Player of the Year.

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