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TIGER IS BACK-FINALLY!

HOWIE EVANS AmNews Sports Editor | 8/3/2011, 3:18 p.m.

Tiger Woods returns this week to begin his road back to the top of the golf world.

One of the most recognizable individuals in the world and the former No. 1 professional golf player in the world, Woods will hit the links this week after re-injuring his knee at the Masters back in April. He admitted that perhaps he should not have played in the Players Championship last May, a tournament he dropped out of because of constant pain in his left knee.

Woods, in addition to his troublesome left knee, also had to deal with consistent pain in his Achilles tendon. So, finally, he shut it down to deal with his injuries and has not played a round of tournament golf in over three months. He returns this week to play in the Bridgestone Invitational at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

Woods couldn't have chosen a better time to return. He's a seven-time winner in this tournament. And while he was rehabbing his knee and Achilles, he dropped to No. 133 in the world. The distractions will be awesome as Woods returns to his sport after parting ways with Steve Williams, his caddie of some 12 or so years. Childhood friend Byron Bell will be Woods' "bag man," at least for this tournament. He's expected to name a permanent caddy sometime in the near future.

Writing to his fans on Twitter, Woods said, "Feeling fit and ready to tee it up at Firestone. Excited to get back out there." Woods has since repeated that same message in interviews with media outlets.

Woods will surely be on the prowl at Firestone as he begins his route back to the top of the sport he dominated for over 10 years, having won 14 majors, but still four majors tour victories behind the great Jack Nicklaus, now retired and sitting on a record 18 major championships.

Woods, now 35 years of age, continues the chase, but at this time in his career, that has been put on hold. Catching Nicklaus is surely not the main focus for him as he returns to competition. For him, we believe, it's one step and one tournament at a time, as he tests his left knee and Achilles at Firestone.

He last won a major tournament back in 2008 when he captured the U.S. Open. The climb back to the top of the mountain will not come overnight.