AKRON (Ohio) • Tiger Woods says he has improved enough after spinal fusion surgery to snap a five-year win drought just ahead of the season's final Major, the 100th PGA Championship next week at Bellerive.
Woods, a 14-time Major champion, briefly led last month's British Open at Carnoustie and, on Thursday, shot a four-under 66 at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
The former world No. 1 boosted his ranking from beyond 1,200th last December to 50th.
"I went from just hoping to be able to play on the tour to now I feel that I certainly can win again," Woods said. "Within a year to get down to 50 is a pretty good accomplishment. At the beginning of the year, if they had said you're playing the Open Championship, I would have said I'd be very lucky to do that."
The American was three strokes adrift of compatriot and overnight leader Kyle Stanley (63) at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Woods has won the Bridgestone event eight times there.
He has not won a Major since the 2008 US Open and has struggled with back pain the past two years but has served notice that his shotmaking skills are returning to form.
He was tied for second at the Valspar Championship in March and, in June, shared fourth place at the National after his best final round in six years.
Tiger Woods' birdies in round one of the WGC-Bridgstone Invitational.
"I've had an opportunity to win a couple of times this year. I had a great chance at Valspar early in the year and even (at Carnoustie) I had a great shot at it," he said.
"My game has become better and good enough where I feel like I can win again out here."
He has one last Major before turning 43 in December. Only 14 times has a player 43 or older won a Major and only two men have multiple wins beyond their 42nd birthday - Old Tom Morris in the 1864 and 1867 British Opens and Julius Boros at the 1963 US Open and 1968 PGA Championship.
Woods shared sixth at the Open, his best Major result since 2013, and will chase his first consecutive top-10 Major finishes since 2010 at Bellerive.
Battling back from severe back pain that had him wondering if his career was over, Woods now faces his hardest stretch of golf since surgery, with a likely run of five events in six weeks starting with the WGC Bridgestone and PGA Championship plus at least the first two PGA play-off events and likely the first three.
"We built a pretty good physical game plan for it," Woods said. "My training schedule, how to build myself up, my recovery breaks, even had to factor in how much I can practise, just to make sure I'm physically fit enough to get through this section."
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