"I know some of you guys think I'm buried and done, but I'm still right here in front of you," Woods said during a news conference at the Old Course. "I love playing. I love competing, and I love playing these events."
Woods, 39, joked about his age when a question about possible retirement was broached as he is about to embark on his fifth Open at the Old Course. The last of his 79 PGA Tour victories came in August 2013, when he was player of the year and won five times. His last major victory was at the 2008 U.S. Open.
"Well, retirement? I don't have any AARP card [a discount group for people 50 and older] yet, so I'm a ways from that," Woods said. "I feel like my body is finally healed up from the [lower-back disk] surgery from last year. They say it takes you about four to six months to get back, but I've heard a lot of guys on tour who have the surgery and other athletes who say it takes over a year to get back.
"I think they were probably closer to being right -- it being a full year to get back. It would have been one thing if I would have gone through the procedure and then had the same golf swing, but I've changed the golf swing, too, on top of that. So that was kind of a double dipper there where I had to fight both at the same time."
Woods has dropped to 241st in the world golf rankings after more than 18 months without a top-10 finish around the world. Most of last year was lost to injury, and then the swing changes Woods began to implement late in 2014 under coach Chris Como made for a horrific start to 2015.
Although Woods shot an 85 in the third round at the Memorial and an 80 in the first round at the U.S. Open, he said those swing changes began to take hold. Three rounds in the 60s two weeks ago at the Greenbrier seemed to confirm some progress.
Now he's back at a place he knows well, where he won in 2000 and 2005, and where there is no premium on driving accuracy that has hurt him at times.
"I'm very excited," Woods said. "Very excited to be back here at the home of golf. I've always loved this golf course -- from the first time I played it back in '95 -- so it's just something special about it. It's nice to be out there on the course and see it and feel it again, to be able to hit all the shots.
"It's playing a little differently than we've had in previous Opens, or the previous Opens that I've played in. It's a little bit softer, and I'm sure it's going to get even softer with the forecast for Friday."
Woods expects the course to be less hard and firm than he is used to, which requires adjustments in thinking. But ultimately, he said, the Old Course is about the wind -- or lack thereof.
"You're going to have nine holes that are probably going to play on the easier side and nine holes that are going to play on the tougher side, and you don't know whether it's going to be going out or coming in," he said.
"Obviously, the into-the-wind holes are going to be a little bit more difficult. It's hard to carry some of the bunkers in some of the fairways sometimes, but you've got to make your hay on the holes that are downwind, on the ones that are easy. You've got to be able to make those birdies, and sometimes you've just got to hang in there on the holes that are into the wind."
Woods begins play on Thursday at 4:55 a.m. ET along with Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen.
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