Woods says he's ready, despite not walking full 18 since Masters

6/10/2008 - Golf Tiger Woods

SAN DIEGO -- Admitting that he has yet to walk a full 18 holes and that his surgically repaired left knee is "a little sore," Tiger Woods nonetheless downplayed any negatives about his return to golf at this week's U.S. Open.

"I'm good to go," Woods said during a news conference Tuesday at Torrey Pines Golf Course. "Come game-time Thursday, I'll be ready."

Asked if not having walked a full 18 holes since the Masters in April could prove costly come Sunday's final round of the tournament, Woods simply said, "I'll be fine."

The world's No. 1-ranked player teed it up in another nine-hole practice round early Tuesday morning, playing the back nine on the South course alongside Bubba Watson and amateur Jordan Cox.

He played the front nine Monday, following practice rounds played in a cart on the course on Wednesday and Sunday.

Woods, 32, who has won two U.S. Opens and 13 major championships, has not played a competitive round since the last day of the Masters, where he finished runner-up to Trevor Immelman.

He has made just five starts on the PGA Tour this year, but still leads the FedEx Cup standings with three wins, a second-place finish and a fifth. He also won a European Tour event in Dubai. His lead over Phil Mickelson in the official world golf ranking equals the gap between Mickelson and the No. 287-ranked player.

Two days after the Masters, Woods had surgery on his left knee for the third time. As recently as three weeks ago, he was concerned about being able to return in time to play in the U.S. Open.

"The week prior to the Memorial, I was not feeling good enough to where I was 100 percent sure I could play all four days," Woods said. "But then my leg started getting a lot better quickly, which was great. ... My endurance came back. All the different things started coming up."

Were it not for the knee surgery and the subsequent layoff, Woods would be the prohibitive favorite to win his 14th major title. Woods loves Torrey Pines, where he won the Buick Invitational in January for the fourth straight year and sixth time overall. He also finished runner-up at the U.S. Open last year and in 2005.

"I haven't played in a while," he said. "I haven't played, obviously, competitively since the Masters. So getting out there and getting into the flow and dealing with the adrenaline, dealing with the juices flying, all these different things that a lot of guys have been dealing with for a little bit and I haven't, I'm excited about. I'm really excited about getting out there and feeling that."

Woods was asked about doubts that he can come back from surgery and a long layoff to win the U.S. Open.

"I've heard that before," Woods said. "I've heard that before."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.