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Woods over neck problem, ready for Masters

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Miami (AFP)

Former world number one Tiger Woods reported for duty at the Players Championship on Tuesday, insisting he was fully recovered from the neck problem which forced him to skip last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

A relaxed-looking Woods said he was no longer suffering pain from the neck strain which he said was linked to the back fusion surgery that allowed him to resume his career.

The 43-year-old showed no sign of discomfort after playing nine holes at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

"It's not painful now," Woods said. "It was getting to the point where it was affecting my setup, my backswing, my through swing," said Woods. "It was just gradually getting worse.

"That's just because my lower back is fused, and so the stress has to go somewhere if I don't have movement, and so it's very important for me going forward since the surgery to keep pliable or else the stress is going to go somewhere else."

The 14-time major winner said his neck problem had first flared at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles last month before worsening during the WGC-Mexico in Mexico City, where he tied for 10th.

"It started to get a little tighter and tighter as I played more holes in Mexico," Woods said.

"You can only swing or make the movement as good as your body's feeling. I was starting to get a little stiffer and tighter and unfortunately I was hitting the ball halfway decent but it wasn't hitting it hard.

"I was just plodding along and just kind of getting around. As my neck got a little bit tighter, yeah, I didn't feel comfortable with my putting. It just made it worse."

Woods meanwhile said he was satisfied that the neck problem had not disrupted his preparations for next month's Masters, where he will once again attempt to end an 11-year wait for a 15th major.

"I've played three tournaments this year so far, and that's about right," Woods said. "I was going to play three or four.

"If I would have got my rounds in last week, it would have been four tournaments, so I'm right there where I need to be.

"My finishes are getting a little bit better each and every time I've gone out so far this year, and I've gotten a little bit more consistent with my play, and I think that everything is headed on track towards April."

Woods will open his Players campaign alongside defending champion Webb Simpson and reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed in Thursday's first round.

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