Caddie: Tiger Woods 'a few weeks' from returning

Padraig Harrington, Arnold Palmer Invitational
Fred Vuich/SI
Padraig Harrington made four bogeys and a birdie for a 73.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Tiger Woods is "a few weeks'' away from a return to the PGA Tour and could decide within days where that return will take place, his caddie Steve Williams said Wednesday.

Williams told Television New Zealand in an exclusive interview that Woods is close to ending his long injury layoff and will return to the tour mentally stronger than before.

"It's going to be anytime, shortly,'' Williams said.

"He's probably 95 percent of the way there. He was waiting for the birth of his second child which just came last week so he's ready to go. He just needs a little bit more walking. He hasn't been able to walk too well,'' he added.

"Anytime in the next few weeks he's going to tee it up. He definitely wants to play a couple of tournaments before Augusta so any day now he's going to make a decision when he's going to play.''

Speculation has increased over the past week that Woods would make his return at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Arizona starting Feb. 25. His wife, Elin, gave birth to their second child - a boy named Charlie Axel - earlier in the month.

Woods has not played since reconstructive surgery on his left knee a week after winning the U.S. Open in June.

Williams said Woods had remodeled his swing to accommodate his injured knee and had been refreshed mentally by his long break.

"He's just got a couple of little issues but when he tees it up that will be a sign to say 'I'm ready to go' because he won't play unless he's 100 percent. It's getting closer,'' Williams said.

Woods had been doing six hours a day of rehab on his knee to get fit again, Willliams said.

"He never tees it up unless he believes he can win and he's ready to go.''

The New Zealand-born caddie said Woods still had the heart and brain that took him to No. 1 in the world rankings, so that alleviated some concerns about his return from the knee problem.

"He's had to modify his swing a little bit to accommodate his knee, but the guy always finds a way,'' Williams said. "I'm a little nervous myself to see how he's going to come back.

"Nine months out of the game after a major operation is a long time but he's a hell of a competitor and one of the best we've ever seen in this game so I would suspect he'll carry right on.''

Williams said it was too early to anticipate what goals Woods might set on his return.

"It's well documented that we're trying to get to 19 majors and hopefully this year we might be able to capture one of those to add to the 14 he's already got,'' he said.

The lengthy period outside of the media spotlight also might have helped Woods, he said.

"I know just over the last couple of years the tour has probably taken as toll a little bit on Tiger,'' Williams said. "He's a person that's different to everybody, he's unique and he's out there in his own league, if you like, and I think that's taken a toll a little bit.

"So for him to get a break from it, mentally that will refresh him and that's a big thing. We already know he's the best mentally tough player who's ever played the game so that in itself is a big factor.''

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