Tiger Woods says he is on the other side of relying on pain medication to cope with an ailing back and that he's loving life.

Woods is returning to competition this week at the Hero World Challenge, an 18-man field with no cut. It's his first tournament in nearly 10 months, and his first time playing since fusion surgery on his back in April.

Woods reached a low point in May when he was arrested on a DUI charge after Florida police found his car parked awkwardly on the side of the road with Woods asleep at the wheel and the engine running. Toxicology reports revealed he had two painkillers, a sleep drug and the active ingredient for marijuana in his system. He later went through a treatment program to deal with prescription medication.

Woods says of his arrest that he was "trying to go away from pain."

While Woods's famous competitive fires continue to rage, the former world No. 1 one conceded he may have to temper his expectations.

"I just really want to be able to compete this week, play all four days and give myself a chance on the back nine on Sunday to win this thing," a relaxed and smiling Woods told a news conference on Tuesday from the Albany Club.

"I don't know where I'm at, I don't know how hard I can hit, what shots can I play. I don't know what the future entails in that regard because I am still learning this body."

'Still struggling' last year

This marks the third time Woods, 41, has attempted a comeback at the Hero World Challenge, the charity event he hosts.

Just last year Woods made a similar return at the Hero following a 16-month hiatus for previous back surgeries and the initial reports were upbeat after he completed four rounds.

Yet two months later he succumbed to more back pain and returned to the operating table.

Woods, however, insists it is different this time.

"I was still struggling with some nerve issues down my leg when I came back at Isleworth [the previous venue for the event], last year I was the same but it was not where it's at now," said Woods. "It's different than my prior two comebacks at this event. Last year I was still struggling and this year is night and day.

"There's still some apprehension going forward and no doubt this week is a big step for me, to be able to play golf, be explosive and hit shots."

Woods said he has made no plans on his competitive future beyond the Hero World Challenge.

While the state of his game remains a big question mark, he made it clear that he has undergone a dramatic improvement in his quality of life.

"The neatest thing for me is to be able to get up out of bed and I can grab a club and not use it as a crutch," smiled Woods. "Now I'm able to take a swing, you have no idea how exciting that is, I'm just so thankful I've had this procedure and am back to this point.

"I've only been doing this for a month, give me a little more time. Let me play this event and see what I can or can't do and I will have a better understanding once I'm at game speed." 

With files from Reuters