Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday morning at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, and afterward pronounced his left leg fully healed from knee and Achilles injuries he suffered at the Masters in April.
"It feels solid, it feels stable, no pain," Woods told reporters after his round. He added that he felt better than he has in years: "Years, plural."
Woods also spoke about his split from caddie Steve Williams, whom Woods fired in a face-face meeting after the AT&T National in suburban Philadelphia in July.
"I felt if was time for a change," Woods said of the decision. "Steve and I have had an amazing run. He's helped me with my career, and I think I've helped his career as well."
Williams had been on Woods' bag for 13 of his 14 major championships, and he said he was "extremely disappointed" by Woods's decision. Williams also said he had "wasted two years" by staying with Woods during his post-scandal layoff and subsequent injuries.
Asked about those comments, Woods said, "That's what he says and what he feels." Woods will have childhood friend Bryon Bell on his bag at Bridgestone and at next week's PGA Championship as well.
Woods said that he is looking for an experienced permanent caddie, but he has "no timetable" for filling the job. It won't be Bell, he added. "Have you seen his legs?" Woods asked, laughing.
When Woods tees off on Thursday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday, it will be his first competitive round since the Players Championship in May, where he withdrew after nine holes. Woods said he has been able to chip and putt for several weeks, but has only be able to hit full shots for the last "two or three weeks." His coach Sean Foley walked with Woods during his practice round.
"I've been hitting it more solidly and more flush than I have in the past," Woods said of his work with Foley.
The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational would appear to be an ideal spot for Woods to return because he's won seven times at Firestone, but he hasn't won a PGA Tour event in almost two years . During his slump and injury layoff, Woods has fallen from No. 1 to No. 28 in the world rankings.
"It doesn't really matter what they think," Woods said of expectations about his return. "I'm just focused on trying to win a golf tournament, that's it."
The normally unflappable Woods was left momentarily speechless during his press conference when a reporter asked him, "Do you feel as though you've been missed?"
After a moment, Woods replied, "I don't know, have I?" (Photo: Chris O'Meara/AP) More: Tiger Woods Life in Pictures | Chronology of Injuries | Homepage on Golf.com