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Tiger returns to Golf at Firestone

Tiger Woods ended a near three month injury-enforced absence from the PGA Tour, as he stepped onto the practice range at Firestone Country Club on Tuesday.

At a press conference, Woods said he was feeling the best he had "in years", and declared that his injured left knee and strained Achilles tendon, that forced him to pull out of the Masters and Players Championship, were no longer an issue.

"The great thing is I don't feel a thing," Woods said. "It feels solid. It feels stable. No pain. That's one of the reasons why I took as long as I did to come back, is that I want to get to this point where I can go ahead and start playing golf again like this.”

It has been confirmed that boyhood friend Byron Bell will caddie for Woods until he finds a permanent replacement for long-time bagman Steve Williams, whom Woods split ties with last month.

On Tuesday, Wood reiterated his previous stance concerning Williams's dismissal, saying, “It was time for a change.”

And it has true that much has indeed changed since Woods took a break from golf to convalesce.

Rory McIlory shattered his U.S. Open scoring record, Steve Stricker is now the highest ranked American, and good friend Darren Clarke finally won a major.

The much-discussed private text messages Woods sent to Clarke helped inspire the Ulsterman to win his the British Open at Sandwich, England in mid-July.

In Akron, Ohio, Clarke will get a chance to thank him in person; the garrulous 42-year-old from Northern Ireland will be paired with Woods for the first two rounds at Firestone.

"Tiger has been the best player in the world for a very long time," Clarke said. “It is fantastic, I think, not just for you guys but for all of world golf just to see Tiger Woods back playing again.

"I'm sure he will be trying to get himself back up to where he has been before, and personally I don't doubt he'll do that.”

On Thursday, practise will be over and the real test for Woods and his game, against some of the top players on the tour, will begin.

"I'm excited," Woods said. "Excited to compete, to play, and hopefully win the golf tournament."

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