GULLANE, Scotland -- Tiger Woods wasted little time getting to work on Sunday morning after an overnight flight to Scotland, where he quickly got to Muirfield for a practice round at the site of this week's Open Championship.
Woods, 37, the 14-time major champion who won the last of his three Open titles in 2006, will compete for the first time since the U.S. Open due to a left elbow strain that he was told to rest and rehabilitate by doctors.
"I took a couple of weeks off and that's why I didn't play and I started practicing last week,'' Woods told two reporters while playing the outward nine at Muirfield with Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. "It felt fine. That's one of the reasons I let it heal, so I could go right back at it.''
Woods, who tied for 32nd at the U.S. Open, said he had to resist the urge to return too early. He skipped his own AT&T National -- where he was the defending champion -- and was also likely to play the Greenbrier Classic. A month ago Sunday was the last time he was seen on a golf course publicly.
The practice round was the first time he had set foot at Muirfield since a tie for 28th in 2002, the year his Grand Slam dreams were blown away in a Saturday gale on his way to a career-worst 81. The following day, Woods rebounded with a 65. He had won the first two majors of 2002.
As he played the par-5 fifth under sunny skies and a cool breeze, Woods laughed as he recalled what it was like during that storm 11 years ago. He said he needed driver, 2-iron, 2-iron to reach the green.
"It's obviously playing a lot quicker than it did in '02,'' Woods said. "These fairways have some fire to them. The greens aren't up to speed, but I'm sure they will get there. It's been dry over here. This place is firm. We're hitting the ball a long ways downwind.''
As an example, at the par-4 eighth, Woods took a 3-iron off the tee on the doglog hole and hit it too far. He switched to a 4-iron to keep the ball in play.
"That 4-iron just went 285,'' he said.
Asked if he preferred a hard, firm test -- as the weather forecast suggests it will remain -- Woods left no doubt.
"Absolutely,'' he said. "You're kind of hoping for this when you come over here. You have just have to get a feel for how far it's running out, whether it's downwind or into the wind.''
Woods flew overnight from Florida and arrived in Edinburgh at 8 a.m. local time. He was on the course just warming after 10 a.m. and finished with his nine-hole round by 1 p.m.
The winner of four tournaments this year on the PGA Tour, Woods is attempting to win his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open.