Woods pushes recovery for British Open

The 14-time Major winner has begun to hit golf balls well ahead of early targets

Tiger Woods has already  begun to hit golf balls following a back operation on a disc 11 weeks ago. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Tiger Woods has already begun to hit golf balls following a back operation on a disc 11 weeks ago. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 10:45

Former world number one Tiger Woods has moved closer to a return to competitive golf by hitting full shots in practice.

Woods is making a return after a back operation 11 weeks ago triggering speculation of a possibility of the 14-time major champion playing in The Open next month at Hoylake, where he won in 2006.

Woods missed the year’s first two major championships after undergoing back surgery on March 31 and has not played since the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier that month.

Speaking on May 19, Woods had said his recovery was “slow and tedious” adding: “As of right now I can chip and putt but that’s it.”

But in response to a report that he had stepped up his practice regime, the 14-time major winner’s agent Mark Steinberg told the PGA Tour’s website: “Tiger is making continual progress.

“He feels better each day and (is able to) extend his swing as he moves forward. The news increases the possibility that Woods could be back in action in time for the Open Championship from July 17-20 at Hoylake, where he won the last of his three Open titles in 2006.

Graham DeLaet, a Canadian professional who underwent the same procedure a few years ago, revealed that it took him a full year before he felt able to compete.

When Woods explained four weeks ago that the doctors had not cleared him to do anything beyond chipping and putting and that he was determined not to rush the recovery, many speculated that the 38-year-old could be absent for the rest of the year.

At that stage, Hoylake, where the Open starts on July 17, seemed very unlikely.

Television ratings have fallen dramatically since Woods was forced to take the third significant break of his 18-year career.

NBC’s viewing figures for Sunday’s final round of the US Open at Pinehurst, won by Germany’s Martin Kaymer, were almost 50 per cent down on last year, when Justin Rose won.

Ratings at the Masters were the lowest for 21 years and even the ticket touts are feeling the reverse “Tiger effect”. Tickets for last week were selling for less than €350, while 12 months they were nearer to €1200

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