- Associated Press - Thursday, March 22, 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - Three times in talking about his left Achilles tendon, Tiger Woods said he was “good to go.”

How good?

Woods said it felt the same as it did before he had to withdraw midway through the final round at Doral two weeks ago, back when his health was not a popular topic. He had closed with a 62 in the Honda Classic. His game was on an upward trend, minus the winning.

How long can he go?

Not even Woods can answer that question.

One week after tightness in his Achilles caused him to grimace in pain, limp and then pull out after 11 holes at a World Golf Championship, Woods teed it up at Augusta National for a practice round. Turns out it was a mild strain, and a few days of treatment had him back to feeling normal.

Then, he played a two-day exhibition at Lake Nona, followed by the pro-am Wednesday at Bay Hill. He begins the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Thursday, and likely will wind up playing eight straight days.

Could the Achilles flare up again on Thursday at Bay Hill? Thursday at the Masters?

“It could,” Woods said. “But hopefully, it won’t.”

The next step starts at Bay Hill, on a course where he has won six times. Woods is playing Thursday morning alongside Ernie Els, who witnessed his 62 at the Honda Classic, and Hunter Mahan, with whom he shares a swing coach.

Since his return to golf after the crisis in his private life, Woods withdrew from The Players Championship in 2010 with a neck injury, though he didn’t miss any time. Then, he spoke of a “minor injury” to his left leg suffered in the third round of the 2011 Masters that caused him to miss Quail Hollow. He returned at The Players Championship, felt problems in his left Achilles tendon on the opening tee shot and withdrew nine holes and 42 shots later.

He wound up missing three months, including two majors.

Woods had his third WD in as many years at Doral. In the previous 14 years on the PGA Tour, he had withdrawn from tournaments only twice _ at Riviera in 2005 when he had the flu, and at Pebble Beach in 1998 when he chose not to return seven months later to complete the rain-plagued tournament.

“It was just tight when I was warming up,” Woods said about Doral. “And I did my normal warm-up routine in the gym and everything, and everything was fine. I got to the range, started warming up, started getting tight. And as I said before, I’ve been through this before. I recognize the signs.”

What gave him a sense of calm about the most recent calamity is having been down this road before.

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