I'm so thankful to have this opportunity again - Woods excited to be back at Sawgrass

Tiger Woods is grateful to be back at The Players Championship again after being unsure how much he would play on his return to the PGA Tour.

A two-time winner of an event dubbed the unofficial fifth major, Woods will be in the field for the first time since 2015 when he tees off alongside Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler on Thursday.

It will be the eighth tournament appearance for the 42-year-old already in 2018, suggesting he is finally over the back issues that blighted him for two years.

Woods has recorded two top-10 finishes on his comeback but, while his performances have raised expectations, he is just happy to be playing regularly again - something he could not envisage happening a year ago.

"I didn't know what to expect this year," Woods told the media at a press conference on Tuesday.

"I didn't know if I'd even be able to play on the PGA Tour consistently, or if I'd be relegated to hanging on the sidelines and watching from television, or maybe playing one tournament a quarter.

"To sit here 12 months ago and say I'd be playing in The Players Championship after having had the chance to win a couple of events this year, I'd have said: 'You've got to be kidding me'. I could barely walk.

"This is unbelievable. I'm so thankful to have this opportunity again, because I didn't know if I'd ever have it.

"Trust me, I'm fully aware how special this is for me."

Woods will get the chance to play alongside long-time rival Mickelson for the first two days, something that has not happened since they were in the same group at the US PGA Championship in 2014.

"Phil and I have a great banter - we give each other a lot of needle," the 14-time major winner revealed. 

"Our relationship has got a lot closer with me being a vice-captain on the last few [Ryder Cup and President Cup] teams. We had some lengthy conversations together, not just about the pairings but also about things in general.

"When I was trying to deal with my back and try to come back and wasn't very good, he always texted me some really encouraging words.

"When I was chipping so poorly - my nerve in my back was not so good and I was flinching a lot - he offered to help me out with technique, and also talk about the philosophy.

"I enjoy competing against him, whether it's the first, second or last day. It's always been a blast - he's one hell of a competitor and it is always going to be a challenge to beat him."

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