BETHESDA Maryland (Reuters) - Tiger Woods' recovery from back surgery has been quicker than expected but he said he probably would not have returned at this week's Quicken Loans National event unless it benefited his charity foundation.
"If this wasn't the foundation and the impact that we can have on kids, I probably would not," the 14-times major winner told reporters at Congressional Country Club on Tuesday about ending his three-month absence from competitive golf.
"Our goal was the British Open (next month). I healed extremely fast thanks to my physios and my nutrition. All the different things that we did...have allowed me to get to this point."
Woods said he did not think he was coming back too soon.
"I'm going to get stronger as time goes on," added the 38-year-old American, "the risk is minimal."
Woods, who will return to Hoylake next month to the scene of his last British Open triumph in 2006, said he had not felt so fit in ages.
"It's been a very, very long time. Probably a good two years since I've felt this way," explained the former world number one who is now down at fifth in the rankings.
"I had the Achilles and then started getting this back thing. Initially it was week to week.
"I'd have good weeks where I felt fantastic, I won five times last year, and then there were weeks when I just couldn't move. It started progressively deteriorating."
Woods said the back problem taught him to listen to his body more carefully.
"That is one thing I have learned stubbornly over the years, particularly with this injury," he added. "This is very different than pushing through my knee injuries in the past - nerve impingement is no joke.
"In the past I probably would have pushed harder and harder and harder until stuff breaks."
Woods said he agreed with the old adage 'with age comes wisdom'.
"I have certainly become much more patient. I think especially with having two little ones that has definitely taught me a lot of patience," explained the father of two.
"It has carried over into my golf on the course as well as off."
Woods recalled how he used to push himself in the early days of his career.
"I used to run 30 miles every week and just push it. No matter how hurt I was I'd still go out and log all the miles and still play tournament golf. I was winning but didn't realise how much damage I was doing to my body at the time.
"I have to now pick my spots when I can and can't push," said Woods. "Now I've got to listen to my body."
(Reporting by Larry Fine, editing by Tony Jimenez)