Bethesda - Tiger Woods said on Sunday he might not return to competitive golf this year following a back surgery he had undergone nine months ago, but he's counting on the wait being worthwhile by producing impressive form.
The 14-time major champion updated his recovery status after Sunday's final round of the US PGA National at Congressional Country Club, which benefits his charity foundation.
"I'm trying to get back as fast as I can," Woods said. "It's frustrating not being able to play, especially at my own event. I miss being out here."
Asked if there was a chance he might not play again this year, Woods said, "I don't know. I want to play. I don't know if I will. But I am trying to... I'm working my tail off."
The British Open is only three weeks away and the year's final major, the PGA Championship, is less than five weeks away.
Woods never mentions a specific event when asked about a comeback timetable and he has admitted downplaying his status in comments about past injuries.
But he talks time and again about having learned from past attempts to return too quickly from injury and setbacks he has suffered as a result.
"I would like to say next week. But I can't," Woods said. "It's not fun. It's a tough road. I know I'm getting better. I'm progressing, but still I'm just not quite ready to be out here.
"I can play with these guys. I know I still can. I just need to get healthy enough where I can do it on a regular basis."
That, Woods said, requires getting into golf shape. That means even though he is playing 18 holes now on consecutive days, he must be able to handle all the stresses of tournament play over 72 holes.
"I still need to be golf fit, hit ball after ball to have my golf muscles back," Woods said.
"I am playing, just I need more time, I still need to get to get stronger, need to recover faster. Unfortunately it will take time.
"I'm older. It takes longer to recover. I want to do it right so I don't have another surgery."
South Africa's Ernie Els, a four-time major winner who played in Sunday's final group, made it clear he wants to see Woods return.
"When Ernie walked off, he made a beeline over to me and gave me a big hug and said, 'Get back out here,'" Woods said. "That's awfully special because we've been going at it for such a long time."
Woods, 40, was able to show his children Els and try to explain how they have been rivals for nearly two decades.
"I was trying to explain to Sam and Charlie - 'See that big guy over there on the 18th green? I've been battling him for the last 19 years,'" Woods said. "That was really cool."
Woods has won 79 US PGA events, three shy of Sam Snead's all-time record, and his major total is four shy of the all-time record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.
But Woods, nagged by back and leg injuries, has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and has not won any title since the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.