As he prepares for his return to golf, Tiger Woods says his life is 'so much better' now that he's not dealing with constant pain.
Woods will make his golfing comeback at this week's Hero World Challenge on the PGA Tour, a tournament he also hosts, as a member of the elite 18-man field.
The 14-time major champion hasn't played since February, after undergoing back surgery for the fourth time in three years.
It's been a tough, slow recovery – as a May 2017 charge for driving under the influence of too many painkillers clearly shows – but Woods has spent the past six months working on himself on and off the course, and the results appear to have been very positive.
“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 Golf Channel.
“[At first] I just chipped [driver]. I was like, ‘Yep, I hit driver today'. 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.
"That takes time and the last thing I want to do is have any setbacks.”
Woods admits he's not sure how he will perform this week, but is excited at the possibility of teeing it up pain-free.
“It could be the next step, I just don’t know and that’s tough to live with," he added. "It’s been a struggle for years. To finally come out on the good side of it, it’s exciting. I am stiffer, I’m fused. But I don’t have the pain and if I don’t have the pain, life is so much better.”
As part of his preparation for this week, Woods played a round of golf in the company of US President Donald Trump, World No 1 Dustin Johnson and eight-time PGA Tour winner Brad Faxon on Friday.
“[Johnson is] the No.1 player in the world. He’s been playing, I haven’t been playing,” Woods added. “It’s nice to compare my game to some of the other guys, like Dustin or Rickie [Fowler] or Rory [McIlroy].
"It’s nice to do something like that and compete and have a couple little denominations [a bet] we’re playing for. I like seeing where I’m at.”
The pros at the Sony Open in Hawaii were sent scrambling for cover on Saturday after a ballistic missile alert was sent out by mistake.