(Reuters) - Tiger Woods pronounced himself fit for a return to competitive golf while acknowledging the ravages of age on Tuesday as he prepared to tee it up for the first time in nearly four months at the Hero World Challenge tournament.
Woods’ quest to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record haul of 18 majors has been stalled at 14 since 2008 after a string of injuries and personal problems sent him off track.
Having not played since the PGA Championship in August, the 38-year-old American returns to action on Thursday near his Florida home at the at Isleworth Golf and Country Club in a tournament benefiting his foundation.
All eyes will be on a creaky back that limited Woods to just eight events last season where he missed the cut twice and withdrew from two others.
The former-world number one underwent back surgery in March and despite long periods of rest and rehabilitation never returned to full fitness missing the Masters and U.S. Open, withdrawing from the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
“I’m older,” Woods said drawing laughs from reporters at a news conference on Tuesday. “Father Time is undefeated.
“We all eventually are losing some of the things we are able to do when we were younger.”
This was no capitulation, just an acknowledgement from Woods that he needed to try another way, and returns having switched to consultant Chris Como from swing coach Sean Foley.
“We all have to make adaptations as athletes, and we have to make adjustments,” said Woods, who believes he has more winning golf ahead of him.
“Like MJ (Michael Jordan) created a fade away. He couldn’t jump over everybody anymore, and he created a new way to score and get points.
“I’m the same way. I can’t blow it out there with some of the longer guys anymore.
“Back when I was younger, a long ball was 290 (yards) in the air. Now it’s 320, 325. I don’t have that.”
Woods said his aging body would not allow him to fire from positions Foley wanted to put into his swing.
Fans and fellow golfers will get their first look at Woods revamped swing on Thursday when he partners with Australian Jason Day in the 18-player invitational.
“We looked at a lot of video from when I was a junior and in amateur golf,” said Woods about time spent with Como. “It was quite interesting to see where my swing was then and how much force I could generate with a very skinny frame.
“That’s kind of what we are getting back into.
“It feels great. It feels fantastic.”
Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Steve Keating.