Tiger has ‘blast’ in practice round


Tiger Woods played an 18-hole practice round on Monday at the site of next week’s PGA Championship and pronounced the 7,467-yard Atlanta Athletic Club layout ready for the year’s last major event. “I had a blast out there on a wonderful golf course,” Woods said in a posting on his website. “It should be a great test for a major championship.” Former World No. 1 Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus, fell to 28th in this week’s rankings ahead of his return from an 11-week injury layoff at Akron, Ohio. Woods has not played competitively since going nine holes at The Players Championship in May and reaggravating left knee ligament and left Achilles tendon strains that he suffered while playing in the Masters last April. Doctors recently cleared Woods to return to practice and his preparations have included work with swing coach Sean Foley. Woods missed the US and British Opens while waiting for his body to heal. Four-time PGA Championship winner Woods was joined by business associate Rob McNamara in Atlanta in a golf cart. They toured the course in 2 1/2 hours, testing the speed of the greens and seeing first-hand the rough’s thickness. Woods confirmed reports that long-time friend and business partner Bryon Bell will replace fired Steve Williams as his caddie at the PGA and this week’s World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. Bell, a friend of Woods since childhood, is president of Tiger Woods Design and has served as bagman for Woods four times in PGA events. “Tiger asked me to work with him and I’m glad to do it,” Bell said. “Although I have a busy schedule with Tiger Woods Design, it’s fun to come out here again. “We’ve had success on the course together before. I hope I’m a good asset for him while he searches for a permanent caddie and I’m looking forward to Firestone.” Woods, who flew to Akron after his Atlanta practice round, has won seven times at Firestone Country Club. “I’m very excited about competing,” Woods said. “Firestone is a wonderful venue and I’m looking forward to getting back out there with the guys.” Woods also announced Monday he was playing the the Australian Open next November at Sydney, an event he last took part in 15 years ago.