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Tiger Woods Is Back

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It might have been the most welcome round of 74 in PGA Tour history.

It had been 109 days since Tiger Woods last put club to ball on the PGA Tour. Before today, his last competitive round was a Sunday 78 at the Cadillac Championship on March 9 prior to his surgery to relieve a pinched nerve in his back at the end of March.

His return to action was a little inauspicious. In Thursday's opening round of the Tour's Quicken Loans National at Congressional, where Woods is the tournament host, Tiger scuffled to a 3-over par 74.

But there was plenty to like, starting with the fact that he was out there to begin with after what many feared with a career-threatening back problem. Clearly rusty, Woods stood on the fifth tee (his 13th hole of the day) at 6-over par, but birdies on three of the last six holes salvaged his round and provided glimpses of the old Tiger.

"I think the hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively," Woods said. "You play with your buddies all day for cash and stuff but it's just not the same. It's not the same as tournament golf, different level. Adrenaline is rushing and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home. It unfortunately took a while to get the feel for it. My feels were off.

"I made so many little mistakes. So I played a lot better than the score indicated, which is good."

It's a slightly different Tiger than the singular superstar who left everyone playing for second when he would arrive with his self-proclaimed "A" game. Woods seems more human now, more fragile, finally vulnerable to the same aches and pains of aging as the rest of us.

But there's no less pressure. A Tour that suffered declining ratings and waning interest in his absence doesn't mind a bit that he might have rushed his return to action. Tiger's still the meal ticket, the bell cow.

Of course, it just so happens that his return coincides with the British Open's return to Royal Liverpool, a course that Woods dismantled in winning the 2006 Open. Being truly back for Tiger is still about winning majors, and he knows that, whether he admits it or not.