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Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Wednesday, 11 May 2011 12:24 UK

Tiger Woods set to return at Players Championship

Tiger Woods
Woods played nine practice holes in Florida on Tuesday

Tiger Woods will make a cautious return from injury when he takes part in the Players Championship on Thursday.

The world number eight has not played competitively since suffering minor ligament and tendon injuries as he tied for fourth at the Masters in April.

But Woods played nine practice holes at the TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday and said he felt "good enough to play" but added: "We'll see how this week progresses."

World number one Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy have decided not to play.

Westwood's no-show at the £5.7m event, often referred to as golf's unofficial fifth major, will give Phil Mickelson another chance to become world number one for the first time in his career.

Mickelson explained: "It's certainly what everybody strives for, but it's not really something that's on the forefront of anybody's minds.

"I think the most important thing is to win tournaments and to compete in a tournament like this week, play against the best players.

"There's a lot more satisfaction over beating the best players in the world on a challenging test like this than there is to say you're ranked 'X' on the world rankings."

I've been working hard the last few weeks... and I feel like I'm turning the corner

Graeme McDowell

Luke Donald could also take the number one position by winning the tournament, while German Martin Kaymer could move back there with a top-two finish.

Donald said: "Being the number one isn't really a goal of mine. That's really an outcome of going through the right processes and hopefully the results coming.

"If I pick up the trophy, then great, it's one of the spoils but it's certainly nothing I'm really concentrating on."

Woods, 35, will not be able to reclaim top spot after 18 months without a victory left him falling down the rankings.

He won the last of his major titles at the 2008 US Open and has not won a tournament since the Australian Masters in 2009.

Shortly afterwards he became embroiled in a sex scandal that forced him to take five months out of the game and ultimately led to a divorce from his wife.

Last year at Sawgrass, he withdrew six holes into the final round with a neck injury but was way down the field at the time.

But Woods said the experience gained during an 18-month winless period between 1997 and 1999 has helped him deal with his recent barren spell.

"If I hadn't gone through it before, I probably wouldn't have handled it like this," said Woods.

"That period was brutal because I had never gone through a stretch like that. If I had never gone through that, this period would have been just as brutal."

Graeme McDowell is looking to put his poor recent form behind him and launch a bid to defend his US Open crown with a good showing in Florida, where South African Tim Clark is the defending champion.

The Northern Irishman has missed the cut three times in his last four starts on the US PGA Tour but believes he has put the worst behind him.

"I got off to a decent start early in the year, took about four weeks off, and haven't found the middle of the club since then pretty much," said McDowell.

"It's been a pretty rough couple of months. I haven't really played my best by any shape or form. It's been a period of reflection, trying to work out where I go from here and just trying to re-prioritise and get my game back in shape again.

"I've been working hard the last few weeks. Had a great weekend in Orlando there with my coach, Pete Cowen, and I feel like I'm turning the corner."

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see also
Injured Woods out of Quail Hollow
27 Apr 11 |  Golf
McIlroy to give Sawgrass a miss
04 May 11 |  Golf
Westwood will miss 'fifth major'
20 Jan 11 |  Golf
Clark wins Players Championship
10 May 10 |  Golf
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf

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