Rosaforte: Good chance Tiger returns at Quail Hollow

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Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour may not be too far away afterall.

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte said Friday on “Morning Drive” that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Woods tee it up as soon as the Wells Fargo Championship May 5-8 at Quail Hollow.

It would be Woods’ first start in about nine months. He hasn’t played in Charlotte since 2012.

“Not saying it will, but at the same time, don’t be surprised if it does,” Rosaforte said. “This is the logical choice.”

Mark Steinberg, Woods’ manager said: “Nothing has changed as of now. There is no timetable.”

Woods has been at Sage Valley in South Carolina the past two days speaking to players at the Junior Invitational. Woods and Notah Begay held a clinic for participants on Thursday and Woods was on the first tee Friday as a spectator.

Begay told GolfChannel.com that Woods is in the “back half of his progression” in his return from back surgery, and that Woods is getting closer to a return to the PGA Tour.

“It's mostly the ball speed and the clubhead speed,” Begay said. “That's a gauge. Every player knows where they should be heading into the season. Everybody else's season started in the fall. We don't know when Tiger Woods' season is going to start, but the physical attributes you would look for are starting to materialize.”

That ball speed, per Begay, is above 170 mph. Woods worked through his bag during his clinic Thursday, shaping the ball with each club, hitting some 2-iron stingers, and even trying out a new driver, which he quickly dismissed.

No matter how good Woods’ TrackMan numbers look, Begay said that practice alone will not be enough. At some point, Woods has to test his back in competition, round after round. It's the only way he'll really know where he stands.

“You have to play tournaments,” Begay said. “You have to put in the reps on the range, probably 300-500 balls a day, and just have to play tournaments. The combination of walking, swinging slightly faster in tournaments, and the stress and all of the focus you need in a tournament week.”

The 40-year-old hasn’t played since Aug. 23 at the Wyndham Championship, where he recorded his best finish of the year, a tie for 10th place. Prior to that, he had missed the cut in three consecutive majors for the first time in his career.

Last September, he underwent a second microdiscectomy and a third procedure to alleviate discomfort in his lower back.

Updates on his recovery have been scarce. When he appeared at his World Challenge event in early December, Woods said that he had “nothing to look forward to” and any other accomplishments in his career would be “gravy.”

Woods skipped the Masters for the second time in three years, but he didn’t announce his intentions until the Friday before the tournament, leading to speculation that he was close to a return but not quite ready.

Ryan Lavner and Nick Menta contributed to this report.