Woods: At 42, it (golf) is a different ball game. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

PARAMUS – Fourteen-time Major winner Tiger Woods says the support he has received from the galleries this year shows how “appreciative” fans are of his latest comeback effort.

The 42-year-old underwent a fourth back surgery in April last year that caused him to question whether he would ever play competitive golf again.

But since his return to the sport in November, Woods has gradually played his way into form and looked close to his best when he finished second at this month’s PGA Championship.

“I think people are more appreciative,” Woods told reporters before a practice round at Ridgewood Country Club yesterday. “They’ve all gone through it - when you get to your forties you’re feeling it.

“They know I’m at the tail end of my career. I don’t know how many years I’ve got left, but I’m certain I’m not like I was when I was 22. At 42, it’s a different ball game.”

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Woods, who is eligible for the FedEx Cup play-offs for the first time since 2013, will tee off tomorrow at the Northern Trust, the first of the four events. He is undaunted by the prospect of having to play three consecutive tournaments for the first time in more than five years to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship.

“That’s a lot of golf (coming up),” he said. “It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practise too much and don’t overdo it, and making sure my training schedule goes well.

“One of the hardest things from this year is trying to find the right balance, but as the summer has gone on I’ve gotten better.”

Woods finished 11th in the US standings, outside the eight players who qualified automatically for the US Ryder Cup team after the PGA Championship, but is a strong contender to be named as one of Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks.

The former world number one is on the team as a vice-captain, a role he filled at the 2016 Ryder Cup and 2017 Presidents Cup while out with his back injury.