Nicklaus: Woods will be 'competitive' upon return

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When it comes to Tiger Woods, there are still more questions than answers. The 14-time major champ is on the mend, but the current state of his game - and a target for his return to the PGA Tour - remain unknown.

According to Jack Nicklaus, though, any worrying over Woods' fate is misplaced. His return to competition, whenever that may be, will likely include a return to the leaderboard.

"I sat next to him at the Champions' Dinner (Tuesday) night, and we talked quite a bit," Nicklaus told the Dan Patrick Show. "He seems to be in really good spirits. He seems to be in good health. He's not going to rush his return, and he's going to come back when he's ready, but he thinks he'll play well and I think he'll play well, too."

Woods hasn't played competitively since the Wyndham Championship in August, having been sidelined by a pair of back procedures. But he has offered signs of progress in recent weeks, notably a video of himself swinging a 9-iron in a simulator last month.

Earlier this week, Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said that he "absolutely" expects Woods to return to action at some point this year. Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte also reported Wednesday that Woods was hitting drivers at "full speed" on the range at Medalist Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla.

Nicklaus won a pair of majors at 40 years old, and he believes that when the 40-year-old Woods returns inside the ropes, he'll find his footing in short order.

"I don't think Tiger needs to capture (lightning) in a bottle. I think Tiger will have plenty of lightning without the bottle," Nicklaus said. "I think maybe 10 years from now he'll have to find some lightning, but right now I think he's still, he'll be very competitive when he comes back."