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Tiger reveals extent of knee injury

Given the previously undisclosed extent of his knee injury, Tiger Woods might merit serious consideration for the PGA Tour comeback-player-of-the-year award.

Failing that, then perhaps he should be an Emmy contender for best actor in a daytime drama.

As it turns out, his ailing left knee was so sore last fall, he hardly could keep the grimace off his face. "It was a good acting job, actually," Woods said.

Interviewed Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery Dec. 12, Woods said he concealed pain that was so severe, he required oral and injected painkillers and considered withdrawing from some late-season events because his stomach was "nauseous."

"I surprised a lot of my friends and family who knew the extent of what I was going through," he said. "[Injections] are a bad way to have to make a living."

Playing pain-free golf isn't, though. Woods has returned to bashing unlimited practice balls at home at Isleworth Golf Club, where he's preparing to give his compatriots some indigestion, perhaps within two weeks.

Woods' doctors last weekend cleared him to hit his driver and practice without restriction, and he will decide by next week whether he'll make his much-anticipated season debut Feb. 13-16 at the Buick Invitational in La Jolla, Calif.

Enduring the longest competitive layoff of his life, Woods kept busy by attending the Super Bowl, going scuba diving, playing half-speed tennis with his girlfriend, hitting a few range balls and working out like a madman.

When he does return, he'll arguably be in the best physical condition of his life -- discounting his days as a cross-country runner in high school. He spent two hours daily doing cardiovascular exercises, such as riding a stationary bicycle, then lifted weights on top of that.

"I may not be as good as I was last year in terms of running shape, but as far as strength and endurance on a bike, I'm definitely in the best shape of my life," he said.

Cabin fever took hold quickly.

"I had a club in my hand all the time, whether it was putting around the house, chipping into a pillow, chipping onto the bed, little things like that," he said.

Though the surgery was arthroscopic, Woods said he had cysts inside a ligament "that looked like, basically, a balloon."

Woods is working his way back in increments, curious about how the knee will respond to stress and the rigors of a full practice routine.

"I'm more inquisitive than I am feeling any kind of apprehension at all," he said. "I know it has no pain in it, and I haven't been like that for a couple of years now, so that part, I'm really excited about."

The same goes for the 2003 season.

"It was exciting, it really was, to get that break and to come back fresher," he said. "I'm certainly more excited now because of that break."


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