Tiger encouraged by recovery, play

DORAL, Fla. -- Tiger Woods will take the next step in his highly anticipated comeback at this week's CA Championship, where he will compete in his first stroke-play event since winning the U.S. Open last June.

And after having a week to digest what occurred at the Accenture Match Play Championship and prepare for another World Golf Championship event at Doral, Woods reported his progress to be encouraging.

"It was actually better than I thought," Woods said Wednesday at Doral Golf Resort, where he played an early morning practice round with Mike Weir. "I thought I would be a little more sore than I was. Recovery from day-to-day has been great. It couldn't have been more positive, except for obviously getting beat in the second round. But from a physical standpoint, it was better than I thought it would be."

Woods returned to the PGA Tour in late February, at the Accenture Match Play, after an eight-month break following surgery to replace the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

That surgery came just eight days after Woods won the U.S. Open, his 14th major title and 65th PGA Tour victory.

He was the defending champion at the Accenture Match Play, where he returned to enormous fanfare. After a first-round victory over Australia's Brendan Jones, Woods was defeated on Feb. 26 by South Africa's Tim Clark, 4 and 2.

"It was a big shot of confidence for me to get out there and play again and feel physically sound," Woods said. "To walk out there and play and then compete and get a feel for that competitive environment was everything I could possibly have imagined."

Woods described Doral's "Blue Monster" course as one that "fits my eye," and it is a place where he has had great success. He has never finished worse than 10th in a PGA Tour event at Doral.

In 2005, he dueled with Phil Mickelson in a memorable final round before winning by a stroke at the Ford Championship, then defended his title a year later. After the 2006 event, the Doral tournament became a World Golf Championship event, and he won it in 2007.

Last year, Woods entered Doral with a five-tournament PGA Tour winning streak (seven worldwide) and was in contention, but settled for fifth -- his worst finish in seven worldwide events in 2008. Geoff Ogilvy, who won the Match Play Championship two weeks ago, was Doral's winner a year ago.

"It feels good to be back here," Woods said. "This golf course is playing just in great shape right now. The greens are perfect, fairways are great. It was fun to get back out there and get a practice round under my belt and get ready for tomorrow."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.