Tigers’ Fitness Boost

Tiger Woods has played down the Achilles injury that threatened to put his Masters participation in doubt and says he is hopeful of playing in next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

The former world number one withdrew from the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Sunday after complaining of tightness in his left Achilles following his tee shot at the 12th in the final round.

There were initial fears of a repeat of the lengthy absence he endured last year after sustaining knee and Achilles injuries during the 2011 Masters. Woods was sidelined for both the US Open and Open Championship and missed the cut at the USPGA on his second start back.

However, following a visit to a doctor on Monday, the 36-year-old is hopeful he will be able to play at Bay Hill next week, his final tune-up event before the year’s opening major at Augusta.

He wrote on his Twitter feed: “Got good news from the doc. Only mild strain of left Achilles. Can resume hitting balls late in week and hopeful for next week.”

Woods said his left Achilles tendon felt tight as he warmed up on the practice range before the final round of the Cadillac, and it got worse as he played his first 11 holes in three over before pulling out.

Still unanswered is how the tendon flared up without notice and it puts fresh doubt over when Woods will finally win an official Tour event again, never mind add to his tally of majors which has been stuck on 14 since he won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.

Tiger ended last year with an unofficial win in his own Chevron World Challenge against an 18-man field but hasn’t won an official event on any tour since the Australian Masters in November 2009.

The numbers don’t make great reading when stacked up against his previous exploits.

Woods has played only 32 tournaments since returning, at the 2010 Masters, from the scandal in his personal life.

He has missed the cut twice, withdrawn three times and has 21 finishes out of the top 10. That’s as many times out of the top 10 during the period from the 2004 US Open to his 2009 Australian Masters win.

Tiger has played at Augusta every year since his 1995 debut as an amateur and has won the Green Jacket four times. However, he’s only won the Masters once since 2002.