Tiger Woods says he is pain-free ahead of his latest return to professional golf but admits his body is still adapting to ankle fusion surgery.

The 15-time major champion underwent treatment in April last year after withdrawing from the Masters during the third round and did not compete again until the Hero World Challenge in December.

Former world number one Woods is on Thursday set to play his first PGA Tour event of 2024, at the Genesis Invitational in California.

The 48-year-old, who previously said he expects to participate in one event per month this year, continues to enjoy the sport and wants to play for as long as possible.

Tiger Woods plays a shot at Riviera Country Club Tiger Woods plays a shot at Riviera Country Club (Ryan Kang/AP)

“My ankle doesn’t hurt any more,” he told a press conference. “The bones aren’t rubbing any more.

“But then again it’s different, other parts of my body have to take the brunt of it, just like my back is fused and so other parts of my body have taken the brunt of that.

“I have two different body parts that are now fused. Other parts of the body have to adapt.

“As far as the love, I still love competing, I love playing, I love being a part of the game of golf.

“This is the game of a lifetime and I don’t ever want to stop playing.”