Miami - Tiger Woods is drawing inspiration from fellow
veteran Phil Mickelson's win in Mexico last weekend as he plots the latest
stage of his comeback this week ahead of next month's Masters.
The 42-year-old former world number one will tee off in the
PGA Tour's Valspar Championship on Thursday hoping to get more rounds under his
belt heading into Augusta in three weeks' time.
Woods has endured mixed results since returning to the tour
this season, finishing tied for 23rd at Torrey Pines in January before missing
the cut at Riviera in Los Angeles last month.
He followed that up with a 12th-place finish at the Honda
Classic and is playing the Valspar at Tampa, Florida this week in an attempt to
hone his game before the Masters.
Woods missed all of 2016 and most of 2017 because of
debilitating back trouble that culiminated in spinal fusion surgery last April.
He said the 47-year-old Mickelson's victory at the WGC
Championship in Mexico on Sunday encouraged him to believe he could still add
to his collection of 106 professional wins.
"What Phil's doing is showing that we can still do it
later on in our careers," Woods told reporters on Wednesday.
"Davis won at 51, Phil at 47," he said, referring
to Davis Love III. "There are a few guys who can do it late in their
Woods, who has missed the last two Masters, is also not
ruling out a member of the old guard prevailing at Augusta next month.
"The favourites are the guys who've always done well
there," Woods said, insisting that himself and former champions such as
Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Bubba Watson and Mickelson were all capable of
"I'm not going to put it out of the realm if Freddie
feels good, he's still in the mix. Bernhard is still in the mix. Phil is in the
mix. Myself, Bubba. There's a few who know how to play the golf course and it
fits us," Woods said.
"There's definitely going to be some young guys who've
been playing well up there. But Augusta is one of those courses that favours
the vets. It's a hard test."
At this stage of the season, however, Woods is simply happy
to be back on the circuit.
"I'm just ecstatic to have a chance to play again and
to have a chance to win golf tournaments and compete," he said.
"There was a while there where I didn't know if I was
ever going to be out there again in the capacity of a professional player. But
here I am, and it's a lot of fun."
Woods said he hopes to use Valspar to fine-tune his game
while building up his endurance.
"Keep progressing, keep making small changes, small
tweaks," he said. "Hopefully I can continue to do that this week.
"I've only played 10 rounds. I know some people are
saying that I've been a little erratic, or a little inconsistent. But it's 10
rounds. It's not that many.
"I looked up some of my stats last night as I wanted to
see where I'm ranked - I'm not even on the rankings, because I haven't played
"That's basically how my comeback has been so