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Bad back. Old. Hasn't been able to finish a tournament in the United States yet this year.

Majorless streak approaching six years. No idea when the back will act up again. Six-year-old daughter wondering why daddy quit last week. Daddy having trouble explaining.

Sounds as if Tiger Woods is primed to win the Masters for the first time since 2005.

It's so bad, it's almost good. The man who knows a great story when he sees one, and even better when he lives it himself, is in position to produce what might be the most impressive comeback of his legendary career.

Love him, despise him or fall somewhere in between; if the 38-year-old Woods were to somehow win the year's first major after getting off to the worst start in his 18-year professional career, it would be a stunning story even by Tiger's high standards. (See broken leg, 2008 U.S. Open, et. al.)

"The will to win hasn't changed," he said at a Wednesday news conference at Doral, site of this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship. "It's physically, am I able to do it? There are times when I've learned this through the injuries that I've had. A bad back is something that is no joke."

And yet, there he was, pronouncing himself ready to go full throttle today after a week of being "poked and prodded," but little practice, and not one practice round on an extensively renovated golf course.

So why did Tiger look so happy and sound so darn philosophical talking about his woes and ailments?

"As we get older, and I've learned it as I've aged, I don't quite heal as fast as I used to," he said. "I just don't bounce back like I used to. That's just part of aging. There are times that, watching my kids run around, I wish I could do that again. Bounce right up, bruises — and they're gone in a day. It's just not that way anymore."

Obviously, Woods has started coming to terms with life approaching 40. We think Peyton Manning is old. Tiger is three months older. He's not being pummeled by a pass rush, but he has taken a beating in his own way, playing the game he loves with a body that now skews much older than 38.

Don't take my word for it. Take his.

"Unfortunately there are times when I really have damaged my knee pretty good and I've had surgeries over the years," he said. "I've had Achilles injuries, wrist injuries, elbows, you name it, now back. I've had neck. It is what it is. It's the nature of repetitive sport."

The laundry list of injuries is nearly as long as his list of majors won. You listen to this, the reality check of Woods' life now, and you sound almost silly bringing up the chase of Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors, especially with Woods stuck at 14 for almost six years.

It feels as if we've gone from "It's a done deal" to "It has to happen" to "It probably will happen" to "Are you kidding?"

If Woods' quest to reach Nicklaus is still realistic, it has to start somewhere, and that would be next month at the Masters, which always is Woods' best bet to win a major because of the way Augusta National sets up for his game.

"I want to be strong and fit and healthy to be able to play that golf course and give it my best," he said, pivoting from realist to optimist as sure as winter turns to spring. "So looking at scheduling and practice sessions and training and all that stuff, we have taken a really good look at it and really tried to come up with a good plan so that I can compete and play and be ready and try and win my fifth jacket."

There's that story line again. He can't help himself. In many ways, neither can we.

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