AKRON, Ohio, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The latest in a growing list of comebacks by Tiger Woods begins Thursday and this one could be the most crucial for the former top player in the world.
Woods will be part of a 76-player field taking part in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, an event he has won seven times. Woods, however, has not won anywhere in 23 months and his world ranking has cascaded to No. 28.
Woods suffered strains to his left knee and Achilles tendon while hitting a shot on the next-to-last hole at this year's Masters. He did not play again for a month, and then he managed only nine holes at The Players Championship -- withdrawing from that event after aggravating the injuries he had sustained at the Masters.
Woods is ready to go again and he said this week he is pain free. If Woods is to challenge for the top spot in the world again and make a run at the record of 18 major championships held by Jack Nicklaus, he needs to begin demonstrating soon than his game is returning to form.
In addition to being free of pain, Woods is also free of his long-time caddie Steve Williams. Woods fired Williams last month after Williams had worked two tournaments for Adam Scott.
Woods will begin the first round at the Firestone Country Club in a pairing with newly-crowned British Open champion Darren Clarke at 1:40 p.m. EDT. Scott, with Williams carrying his bat, will be playing two groups behind Woods.
World No. 1 Luke Donald and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel will begin their round at 9:20 a.m. Lee Westwood, ranked second in the world, will play in the company of Graeme McDowell and they will start at 9:30 a.m.
Phil Mickelson, who missed the cut last week at the Greenbrier Classic and who is seeking his first win since the Houston Open in April, has been paired with Jason Day. They will tee off at 10 a.m.