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Tiger Woods returns ahead of schedule in Maryland

Tiger Woods will command the headlines as the former world No.1 returns to competitive action at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional this week.

The 14-time major winner has been consigned to the sidelines for the past three months after undergoing back surgery in March, missing the Masters and the US Open.

Woods had originally set his sights on a return at next month's Open Championship at Hoylake but he is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He may not yet be ready to set any specific victory targets but chief among his aims is qualifying for the PGA Tour's FedExCup play-offs. The 38-year-old has eight weeks to climb from 209 in the current standings into the top 125 places.

Woods, now fifth in the world rankings, said: "I am actually ahead of schedule where everyone thought I would be at. We all thought it was going to be the British Open which would be my first event back but I healed fast. I am just trying to get into the play-offs."

Woods has admitted that he probably would not be competing at the event in Bethesda, Maryland, this week were it not supporting his own Tiger Woods Foundation. However, after a sensitive programme of rehabilitation and some tweaks to his game, he feels ready to play. He added: "Once I got to the point when I was playing golf, shaping shots and looking at holes things started to come back quickly."

A two-time winner of the event, Woods will play the first two rounds alongside fellow top-10 players Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, who finished tied second at the Masters in April and joint fourth at the Players Championship last month. "Jordan Spieth has been playing great," said Woods. "To have come out of college and done this well this fast and been consistent . . . he seems to be having top 10s every week."

Ernie Els, who won the US Open here in 1997, forms a high-profile opening three-ball with Justin Rose and Keegan Bradley. Brendon Todd plays alongside Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker while there will be interest in the grouping of Jason Dufner, Bill Haas and KJ Choi.

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