Open 2014: Tiger Woods targets win after recovering from surgery

By Rob HodgettsBBC Sport at Hoylake
Tiger Woods pictured during a practice round at Hoylake
Tiger Woods said his back injury was so bad it "made it difficult to get out of bed"
The Open Championship 2014
Venue: Royal Liverpool Golf Club Date: 17-20 July
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Sport website, mobile & app, and Connected TVs

Tiger Woods insists winning is his only goal at this week's Open Championship despite another injury-hit season.

Woods, who won the last of his three Opens at Royal Liverpool in 2006, had surgery in March for a back injury that "made it difficult to get out of bed".

But despite playing only one tournament since then, the 14-time major champion said there was only one acceptable result at Hoylake this week.

"First," said the American. "That's always the case."

At 38, after four left knee operations, as well as neck and Achilles injuries, many observers believe age and an ailing body are the biggest barriers to Woods overtaking Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles.

The American has not added to his tally since the 2008 US Open, but Woods is adamant he can still succeed at the highest level despite no longer having a monopoly on golf's power game.

"When my knee was bad I could still chip and putt, I could still go out there on the golf course," he said.

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"But with this back I didn't want to do anything. I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't move around the house. I couldn't actually enjoy my life.

"The people who have had my surgery say the same thing. It changes your life. It takes away all the pain.

"You're sore from the incision but you don't have that radiating pain down the leg. Once that was removed, I knew it was only a matter of time before I could get out here and play at the elite level again.

"Once I started getting stronger, more stable, I could work on my explosiveness and start getting my speed back. I'm probably not at the level I think I can be as far as my explosion through the golf ball but I'm pretty darn close."

Woods missed the cut on his comeback from surgery at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional last month but was encouraged by how his back responded.

"It was such a big moment because I didn't have any setbacks," he said.

At Hoylake on Tuesday, Woods went out for a practice round at 07:10 BST, along with former world number one rival David Duval and fellow American Hunter Mahan.

Tiger Woods
Former world number one Woods won the last of his three Opens at Hoylake in 2006

Looking relaxed and in control of his game, Woods unleashed a drive up the fifth and fired a stinging long iron down the seventh, a shot reminiscent of eight years ago when he famously used his driver only once after an eight-week summer heatwave baked the Hoylake fairways and produced fiery, firm conditions.

Woods missed the cut in the US Open that year a month after his father Earl had died at the age of 74, but he says he experienced a sense of serenity at Hoylake as he clinched his 11th major title and cried on the shoulder of then caddie Steve Williams on the 18th green.

"I felt at peace," said Woods. "I really felt calm. It was surreal at the time. It felt like my Dad was watching me, like he was my 15th club."

Tiger Woods's major titles
Masters:US Open:Open Championship:US PGA:
1997, 2001, 2002, 20052000, 2002, 20082000, 2005, 20061999, 2000, 2006, 2007

Since then, Woods has won three more majors - the US PGA the following month as well as the 2007 US PGA and 2008 US Open - but scandal, divorce, injury and a change of swing coach have taken their toll.

"Life is completely different to how it was then," said Woods.

As a person I've gone through a lot. I've lost a parent, I've got two kids, I've got a completely different golf swing. A lot of aspects of my game and life have changed since 2006."

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The one thing that remains constant is his competitive drive.

Asked if he really believes he can win despite his lack of competitive practice, Woods recalled an incident from 2008.

Following knee surgery, he failed to break 50 for nine holes on the Sunday before the US Open but went on to claim his 14th major, beating countryman Rocco Mediate in a play-off despite cruciate knee ligament damage and a broken leg.

"I've been in circumstances like this before," Woods told the media on Tuesday. "I've proven I can do it."

Another reporter asked Woods if he would continue playing through his 40s and even 50s to beat Nicklaus.

"Hopefully, I'll have it done by then," he responded.

Tiger Woods at Hoylake
Woods missed the cut in his first tournament after surgery but says he is nearly back to his best
Tiger Woods pictured in front of a scoreboard during a practice round at Hoylake
Woods has won 14 majors - four behind Jack Nicklaus' all-time record
Tiger Woods at Hoylake
Woods enjoyed a practice round alongside compatriots David Duval and Hunter Mahan

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