‘Nervous’ Tiger Returns, Tees It Up Thursday at the Hero World Challenge

US Vice-Captain Tiger Woods has been out of action since August 2015 with a back injury

Tiger Woods ranked #1 in the world for a record 683 weeks. Crippled by a series of back and knee surgeries and highly publicized personal problems, Woods hopes to commence his journey back to winning on Thursday in the Bahamas at his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge.

Now lingering at #879 in Golf’sWorld Ranking, Woods asserted, ”I’m ready to go.’’

The winner of 14 major championships—second only to Jack Nicklaus who owns 18—planned to make his return to tournament play at the Safeway Open in Napa, California in October. But, a few days before the tournament he withdrew admitting that his game was “vulnerable” and not ready for tour competition.

Though he says he’s ready, Tiger confessed, “I’m nervous for every tournament I play in, whether it’s after a layoff, or six in a row, or a major.”

The 40-year-old golf legend admitted, “I care. If I care, I’m nervous. And it’s good to be that way. To have that nervous energy and channel it into aggression, into focus, concentration, that’s good stuff. If I wasn’t nervous, that would mean I didn’t care. I don’t want to be out there flat.’’

Woods has good reason to feel nervous. He hasn’t made it to the first tee in a PGA Tour event in over 15 months since he tied for tenth at the Wyndham Championship. On top of that, he will battle it out with the likes of Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Zach Johnson, and other top tour competitors.

Some expect Tiger to just tee it up and make a go of it after his protracted layoff. But Woods told ESPN, “I’m out here playing and competing. That part is really neat. Then there is that part of me that is the competitor who wants to beat these guys. I want to compete.’’

According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the odds don’t look good for Tiger to climb the leaderboard. Woods, who trails Sam Snead by only three victories as the all-time leader of PGA tour wins with 79, owns the field’s lowest odds of winning the Hero World Challenge at 40-1.

One thing that the aging Tiger has going for him, however, is that 2016 has been the year of the underdog. Tiger might look to the World Series-winning Cubs, the Brexit victory in the UK, and President-elect Donald Trump as inspiration that having odds against you doesn’t mean you can’t win.