Tiger Woods back at East Lake and couldn't be prouder

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"The season itself has been wonderful, to be able to have played this well after coming off of what I came off of", a leaner, more toned Woods said Wednesday at a pre-tournament news conference. "But I just got back to what I know, spent a lot of time around the chipping green, putting green the last kind of month or so and that's just kind of taken a lot of stress back off my long game and that's allowed that to free up". But I found myself smiling and nodding as Woods talked about accepting that his back will never be the same.

He didn't make it in 2014 because of his first back surgery and his ill-advised attempt to return too early.

That outlook began to change, albeit slowly at first, following a pedestrian West Coast swing that included a missed cut at the Genesis Open.

"There's some guys that can't say they've accomplished that, have gotten into the Tour Championship, but to have come back from where I've come back from and to get here has been a pretty tall order and something I'm proud of". Only one top 10 in his last four starts.

A first win since 2013 has eluded him, but qualifying inside the top 30 players on the PGA Tour to make it to the exclusive finale at East Lake, near Atlanta, this week is something he couldn't have envisaged at the start of the year.

Pazder said the tour applied the new model to the previous 11 years and the same player won every FedEx Cup except for 2011.

Another tournament, another share of the first-round lead for Tiger Woods.

Rose, Finau, Johnson and Thomas could deny DeChambeau should either win the Tour Championship while Bradley, should he win, would need for DeChambeau to finish tied second or worse. Thomas was runner-up at East Lake a year ago, which was enough for him to move past Jordan Spieth and capture the cup.

Tiger Woods wins Tour Championship
Rose birdied the last hole to clinch the FedEx Cup. "It was just a grind out there but I loved every minute of it", Woods said. A Woods victory would be an 80th PGA Tour triumph and take him to within two wins of Sam Snead's all-time 82 Tour victories.

Field strength - A: It's pretty great. Winning the FedEx Cup would cap off a great year for the Englishman.

When you've won 14 major championships and 79 PGA Tour titles, there's no such thing as a moral victory.

"In the "W" category, it doesn't compare to some of the years that I've had, where I've won eight or nine times in a year", Woods told reporters at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Woods will join two dozen of the best players in the world starting Thursday. His last major victory was in 2008. Woods had the lead on the 11th hole at the British before fading to a tie for sixth. He had six finishes in the top 10.

Australian world No.22 Marc Leishman will be the highest-ranked player among the 56-man field, with no golfer within the top 20 on the world rankings accepting the invitation to travel down under for the two-man teams event. The Tour Championship is his 18th event, his busiest schedule to date since 2012. Fowler has other objectives at East Lake.

A three-putt bogey at the first was the only blemish as Woods added four birdies before striking a crisp five-wood from 255 yards to the final green. He was already set to attend the event at Le Golf National outside Paris, France, but captain Jim Furyk offered him a wildcard selection as a player.

The Ryder Cup gets under way in two weeks time as Europe and U.S. go to battle at Le Golf National in Paris.

One week before the Ryder Cup, European golf was dealt a hammer blow when the American-based PGA Tour announced an incredible increase to its FedEx Cup bonus structure - including the leading prize going up from $10 million to $15 million.