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Tiger opens with bogey in injury layoff comeback

AFP
US golfer Tiger Woods during his practice at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland on June 24, 2014
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US golfer Tiger Woods during his practice at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland on June 24, 2014 (AFP Photo/Mladen Antonov)

Bethesda (United States) (AFP) - Tiger Woods made his long-awaited return to competition Thursday morning after a 109-day injury layoff, making a bogey to start his opening round at the $6.5 million US PGA National.

Cheers and applause from about 200 spectators greeted Woods just behind the clubhouse as he teed off in warm and sunny conditions at Congressional Country Club's 218-yard, par-3 10th hole.

Well-wishers gave Woods several "Go Tiger" yells as he walked from the practice putting green to the 10th tee.

Woods, wearing a green shirt with black pants, smacked his tee shot over the green and into a bunker, then blasted out 17 feet from the cup and slid his par attempt three feet past the hole.

The 14-time major champion, chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, had not played in any event since March 9 following back surgery on March 31 to relieve a pinched nerve.

"Back feels great, which is a really good sign," Woods said after a final practice round Wednesday.

Woods had not played a competitive round since he fired a 78, the worst final-round score of his pro career, at Doral, where he struggled to bend over to pick the ball out of the cup.

Woods spent months recuperating and slowly progressing to the point where he could swing a driver at full strength and continues to take physiotherapy exercises.

The 38-year-old American, who has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open, had originally targeted making his comeback next month at the British Open at Royal Liverpool, where he won the Claret Jug in 2006.

But feeling pain-free for the first time in two years and recovering ahead of schedule, Woods got the approval of doctors to make his comeback at the National, a PGA event which benefits his charity foundation.

Woods seeks his 80th career PGA title, two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record, and his third victory in the National after titles in 2009 and 2012, but admits he expects to be rusty.

"I just haven't had the amount of prep and reps (preparation and repetitions) that I would like," Woods said. "But I'm good enough to play and I'm going to give it a go."

Woods will play the first two rounds alongside Australian Jason Day and 20-year-old US star Jordan Spieth, both still seeking a first major triumph.

Woods' most recent victory came last August at the World Golf Championships event in Akron, Ohio.

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