BETHESDA, Md. -- Today, Tiger Woods was talking about his improvement from back surgery.
And his golf game. And the future.
That is a change for the star golfer who has spent a lot of time talking solely about his injuries. And the past.
Woods, who has not played competitively since undergoing back surgery on March 31, will tee it up Thursday in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club. The tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Woods talked about that return at a press conference at Congressional.
"Well, I'm right here," Woods joked when asked where he was in his comeback, adding that it has been an "interesting road" and "quite a tedious little process. I got to a point where I can play competitive golf again, and it's pretty exciting."
He did admit that the "goal was the British Open" and he "probably would not" have played this week if he didn't have a connection to the tournament.
As far as being competitive this week, it was no surprise that Woods still has his eye on the prize.
"Expectations don't change," he said. "That's the ultimate goal. It's just that it's going to be a little bit harder this time. I just haven't had the amount of prep and reps that I would like, but I'm good enough to play, and I'm going to give it a go."
It won't all be work for Woods. Later Tuesday he'll be visiting the White House along with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn as President Obama welcomes the 2013 Presidents Cup team.
The 14-time major winner has already missed the Masters and the U.S. Open this season and the British Open in July was thought to be something Woods was shooting for.
However, his appearance this week seems to have sped up the process.
"Well, I'm actually probably ahead of schedule than -- well, everyone thought I would be at. We all thought that it was going to be -- the British Open would be my first event back. But I healed fast," Woods said.
"When you get treatment all the time, it's amazing what you can do. And also, nutritionally, making sure I eat perfect. Anti-inflammatory meals, all the different things I needed to do to get back. People take -- it's a normality in other sports. If you play football or hockey or any other sport, this is just common. But I think in the golfing world, looking at most of the physiques, it's not really that common. But having friends who are in other sports, it does help what they went through and what they have done and what their protocols are for their teams. You know, here we are."
Playing wounded is nothing new for Woods, who has had four surgeries to his left knee along with Achilles, elbow and neck problems.
Woods said "this was different" with the back keeping him from even getting out of bed in the morning."
The last major victory for Woods was the 2008 U.S. Open.
Even the competition is happy to see Woods return.
"Tiger is the driving force behind our game and we need him playing and we need him playing well," Brandt Snedeker said. "We've missed him out here. Obviously, the TV ratings haven't been where they need to be the last six months and he's a large part to that. More than that he brings in the casual fan which we haven't had the last few months."
Former tour player and current Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee had the same reaction as Snedeker and also hopes that Woods isn't returning too soon.
"He's the most impactful man in the history of golf in terms of interest and ratings. And there is nobody that even comes close to filling that void," said Chamblee. "So it's exciting to have Tiger Woods back in a field. The possibility that the whole world is going to tune in is there."
But anyone who has ever had back problems know they don't disappear overnight.
"The other thing that came to mind, based on what we've all read, that he might be coming back too early and risking re-injury on a course with four-inch rough," said Chamblee who added that a 60% Tiger Woods is one of the best players in the world. "And as Tiger goes, so goes the Tour. I want him to see this run that Tiger is capable of over the next 10 years. I want to see him at his best. I want to see him play again like he did from 2000-2009. I'm a little nervous that he is going to reinjure himself. That's based nothing on anything medically but based on what we have read."
Justin Rose thinks that this week will be an opportunity for Woods to shake the rust off and be prepared for the British Open.
"I always feel this is a slight lag effect: You have your game on the range but it might take a week or two weeks or having a scorecard in your hand for five or six rounds. That's the case for all of us."