BETHESDA, Md. — Tiger Woods grimaced as he took three warm-up swings after sitting in a chair for 30 minutes on a cool, blustery Monday morning at Congressional talking about his upcoming tournament. Hitting a ceremonial shot from a forward tee on the par-3 10th hole, he chunked his first attempt into the pond short of the green.

He asked for another ball. That one splashed, too. With officials from his foundation egging him on, he tried one more time. The last one cleared the pond, but not by enough. It landed on a steep bank and rolled down into the water.

His efforts at Congressional – home to the Quicken Loans National, which he hosts and which benefits his foundation – put to rest most of the lingering questions about whether he’ll be ready to return to competitive golf anytime soon.

“I have been practicing at home, and I’m progressing nicely. I’m hoping to play,” Woods said. “That’s the overriding question I keep hearing: When are you coming back, when are you playing?”

Woods, who underwent two back surgeries last fall, said he’s getting stronger and hitting the ball better. The tournament at Congressional will be played June 23-26, the week after the U.S. Open, and it certainly appears that Woods will attend only in a noncompetitive role.

Woods, 40, hasn’t played since last August, and he’s fallen to No. 524 in the world ranking. He said he can’t spend nearly as much time practicing as he used to. He’s been playing friendly games at Medalist, his home club in Florida, but he’s yet to play 18 holes, although he said he’s physically capable of playing a full round.

“Everything about my game is coming around. Now it’s just a matter of being consistent,” Woods said. “And then being able to do that not only at home against the boys at Medalist and trying to take their cash, but trying to come out here and doing it against the best players in the world is a completely different deal.”

If he were healthy, June would be a busy month, starting with the Memorial and then the U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he tied for second in 2007, followed by the Quicken Loans National, which he’s won twice. While Woods did not confirm that he would be absent from those events, he said it’s frustrating not to be able to play at places where he’s been successful.


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