NORTON, Mass. â€“ Tuesday was the 22nd anniversary of â€œHello, world.â€� Soon after, Tiger Woods started winning â€“ and dominating â€“ golf tournaments at an unprecedented rate. That part of his career, he says now, went by fast. As for the last part? The injury-plagued part, the part that required four back surgeries, the part that has kept him from the winnerâ€™s circle for the last five years and derailed his chase of Sam Sneadâ€™s 82 wins and Jack Nicklausâ€™ 18 majors? â€œSeemed like it took centuries,â€� Woods said Thursday on the eve of this weekâ€™s Dell Technologies Championship. Now, of course, itâ€™s â€œHello, again.â€� Hello, first, to just being back on the PGA TOUR, and now to being back in contention, feeling the heat down the stretch as he did most recently at the PGA Championship when he finished solo second. And also hello, again, to managing a busy end-of-season schedule that will have him playing six of the last eight weeks â€“ and then topping that off the next week with a probable playing spot on the U.S. team that competes at the Ryder Cup. Itâ€™s an underappreciated aspect of his comeback, made even more challenging by the fact that heâ€™s five months away from his 43rd birthday and about to make his 344th TOUR start. Heâ€™s saying hello, again, but not with the same body he had 22 years ago when he made his first TOUR start in Milwaukee. Not that Woods is complaining. In fact, heâ€™s grateful for the opportunity, considering that a year ago, he wasnâ€™t sure if heâ€™d ever play again. â€œThe hardest part is, I didnâ€™t have any inkling of what this year might be,â€� he said. â€œNormally if I have a good off-season or a good practice or feel healthy, I can reasonably expect what might happen the following year. â€œThis year was a complete unknown. I didnâ€™t know if I was going to play. I didnâ€™t know how many events I was going to play. What swing I was going to use. I didnâ€™t know any of these things â€“ and a lot of adjustments on the fly.â€� He added one new event, the Valspar Championship, and then managed to qualify for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, trying to juggle his schedule while being careful not to overload it. â€œThose are nice options to have,â€� Woods said, â€œbecause the beginning of the year, going into this year, I had no clue what was going to transpire. So itâ€™s all been positive.â€� Now heâ€™s in the heat of the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time in five years. He tied for 40th last week at THE NORTHERN TRUST and dropped from 20th to 25th in points. He sounded like he may be second-guessing his decision not to give himself a week of rest like Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson did, although those two also dropped in the standings â€“ McIlroy from 21 to 28, Stenson from 50 to 55. Now he enters this weekâ€™s Dell Technologies Championship knowing that he needs a good performance either here or at next weekâ€™s BMW Championship to secure his spot inside the top 30 for the TOUR Championship. Itâ€™s hello, again, for TPC Boston, a course heâ€™s played nine times â€“ including a win in 2006, the year before the debut of the FedExCup Playoffs. â€œI know theyâ€™ve made a few changes since the last time I played,â€� said Woods, whose last appearance resulted in a tie for 65th in 2013. â€œI know Iâ€™ve really played well on this golf course over the years. Hopefully it will be one of those weeks again. â€œIn general, it sets up for a guy that hits it long and high â€“ and Iâ€™ve done that pretty much my whole golf career.â€� With the extra day this week due to the Dell Technologiesâ€™ Labor Day finish, Woods used the time to focus on his children while getting away from golf. Itâ€™ll probably be the same approach heâ€™ll use for the off-week after the BMW Championship. He also knows that heâ€™ll soon get extended time off, allowing him to make a big push now. â€œI know that my golf is not going to be much, if anything, post-Ryder Cup,â€� he said. â€œAnd not just myself, but for a lot of guys. Weâ€™re just pushing it to that point and then shutting it down. Just trying to get to that point so that when I shut it down, Iâ€™ll be able to shut it down.â€� That means heâ€™s running out of chances this season to end his victory drought. Of course, given where he was a year ago, he seems grateful just to have made his presence known on the back nine of a few Sundays this year. â€œJust a matter of giving myself enough opportunities,â€� he said. â€œIâ€™m not going to win them all. In order to win them, youâ€™ve got to be there. And Iâ€™ve been there enough this year and obviously want more of it.â€� Twenty-two years ago, he began the journey â€“ and at times, it seemed like he did win them all. â€œWhen I first turned pro, I felt like â€¦ I would never get to, at the time, the Senior Tour,â€� Woods said. â€œI had three decades to go. â€œAnd now Iâ€™m eight years away.â€� Eight years away, that is, from saying hello to PGA TOUR Champions, when heâ€™ll once again battle the guys he used to beat so frequently in his earlier days. For now, though, he still has business to attend to on the PGA TOUR. Saying hello again to the FedExCup trophy wouldnâ€™t be such a bad way to end the season.
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