Tiger Woods is making his PGA return Thursday, but U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy isn't giving him good odds of winning.
"No one expects him to come out and play well," McIlroy said, the 22-year-old golfer from Northern Ireland, in an interview with the Associated Press.
"I'm sure he expects himself to come out and play and compete," McIlroy said, "but given the length of layoff and considering that he's only been able to hit full shots for the last two weeks or whatever, it would be an unbelievable effort if he was to come back and compete.
"But I think just get through 72 holes and maybe finish top 20 would be a really good effort."
Woods tees off Thursday in his return after a 12 week layoff at the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. No longer the world's number one golfer, Woods has a new caddie and says he's recovered from a nagging knee injury that forced him out of competition this summer.
But Woods said after a nine-hole practice round at Firestone in Akron, Ohio earlier this week that he's "good to go."
"My expectation is to win," Woods said, meeting with the media after the practice round.
Woods said his rehabilitation process has gone so well he said he considered entering last week's Greenbrier Classic.
Instead, he opted for one more week off on the cautious side. When Woods was asked how long it's been since he felt so good, he replied "years."
Woods last made a nine-hole appearances at the Players Championship in the spring, but he withdrew from that tournament after aggravating a sprained left knee and injured Achilles tendon suffered the month before at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.
After pulling out of the Players Championship, Woods withdrew from four more tournaments, including the U.S. Open and the British Open to rehabilitate the injuries.
Woods said he had practiced with the putter and pitching wedges for more than a month but only started hitting his driver again "two or three weeks ago."
"The shots felt very crisp, very clean," said Woods. "I was very pleased..."
Woods will be pairing with a new caddie, longtime friend Byron Bell. Last month, Woods released long-time caddie Steve Williams, ending a 12-year relationship. Woods said he has no regrets about releasing Williams.
"I felt it was time for a change," said Woods.
Williams, however, was less happy about the change. He said he "wasted two years" with Woods and said he wanted to write a tell-all book about Woods' marital and on-course troubles.
"We had a nice conversation," said Woods, of Williams. "It was a tough conversation, but we said what we needed to say to each other -- face to face and man to man."
Woods has won seven times at Firestone, but he hasn't won a tournament in almost two years amid injury and divorce problems after a long reign as the world's number one golfer.
In March, McIlroy said Woods had lost his "aura" and was "playing like an ordinary golfer."
McIlroy said in a press conference at the Bridgestone Invitational that he was "learning towards" rejoining the PGA tour in 2012. He said he plans to look for a house in Florida after next week's PGA Championship.
"I feel as if I play my best golf in this country," McIlroy said.