Woods Plays Practice Round at Atlanta Athletic Club

According to his website, Tiger Woods played a practice round on Monday at Atlanta Athletic Club, the host of next week's PGA Championship. Playing with business associate Rob McNamara, the two circuited the course in a golf cart in a brisk 2 hours.

"I had a blast out there on a wonderful golf course," Woods remarked on www.tigerwoods.com. "It should be a great test for a major championship."

Before playing the final major of the year Woods will be teeing it up this Thursday in the WGC- Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, a place where he's won seven times. "I'm very excited about competing. Firestone is a wonderful venue and I'm looking forward to getting back out there with the guys," he said.

Golf fans won't know what to expect since the erstwhile top-ranked golfer in the world hasn't played competitively since the Players Championship in mid-May. He withdrew after completing only nine holes after suffering a mild medial collateral ligament strain in his left knee and a strained Achilles tendon in his left leg, which he's been rehabilitating ever since.

Because of his inactivity, Woods has fallen to No. 28 in the latest World Golf Ranking.

What is known is that Woods will have a new caddie this week after letting go long-time looper Steve Williams in July. Woods's friend, Byron Bell, will be on the bag. Bell, also president of Tiger Woods Design, caddied for Woods when he won his record-setting third straight U.S. Amateur title in 1996, and has packed for Woods four times on the PGA Tour, including a victory in the 1999 Buick Invitational.

"Tiger asked me to work with him this week and I'm glad to do it," Bell told the website. "Although I have a busy schedule with Tiger Woods Design, it's fun to come out here again. We've had success on the course together before. I hope I'm a good asset for him while he searches for a permanent caddie, and I'm looking forward to Firestone."

Also on Monday, Woods committed to play in the Australian Open, November 10-13 at Lakes Golf Club in Sydney. "I'm very excited to be competing in the Australian Open," he said. "I haven't played in the tournament since 1996, and I'm anxious to return. I have a great affinity for playing golf in Australia and I'm looking forward to competing against an outstanding field."

Woods, now 35, last played in Sydney - also in the Australian Open - when he was just 20. This year's Australian Open will take place a week before the biennial Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. Woods's last victory anywhere in the world came in the Australian Masters in mid-November 2009.

Twelve days after that win, he crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home. That started a stunning unraveling of his personal life which led to revelations of multiple extramarital affairs and a divorce from his wife, Elin, in August 2010.