By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LAKE FOREST, Illinois (Reuters) - With his ailing back much improved after a one-week break from the PGA Tour, an upbeat Tiger Woods will tee off in Thursday's opening round of the BMW Championship in pursuit of his sixth win this season.
Though the American world number one will be competing for the first time on the par-71 layout at Conway Farms Golf Club, he boasts an impressive record in the Chicago area.
Not only has Woods twice clinched the PGA Championship at nearby Medinah, but he has also visited the winner's circle on five occasions at Cog Hill, twice in the BMW Championship and three times in its predecessor, the Western Open.
"Obviously it's very different compared to Cog Hill and Medinah, but it is a nice track," Woods said of Conway Farms after playing there in the pro-am competition on a muggy Wednesday.
"It's a little confined in the sense that it's going to be interesting to see how they're going to get the gallery around here, especially on the front nine, the bottlenecks over on (holes) five and six.
"All the times I've been in Chicago, it's a great sporting town. They come out and support their events. This will be a fun crowd."
Asked by a reporter what he considered as his single greatest moment in the Chicago area, Woods replied: "Probably Medinah, winning there twice."
When twice pressed to narrow that 'moment' down to just one, Woods grinned while replying each time: "Winning there twice."
Woods heads into the third of the PGA Tour's four lucrative FedExCup playoff events ranked second in the points standings, behind Swede Henrik Stenson who took over at the top by winning the Deutsche Bank Championship nine days ago.
While Woods finished a lowly 65th at the Deutsche Bank after closing with a two-over 73 in low-scoring conditions, he was especially pleased to have the next week off to work on his problem back.
"That was nice," the 14-times major champion smiled. "It was nice to have that week of treatment and strengthening, so that was all good. And I was practicing towards the end of the week."
Woods had collapsed to his knees in pain with a back spasm on the 13th hole during the final round of The Barclays in New Jersey, the opening playoff event, forcing him to limit his practice time at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
With his caddie, Joe LaCava, having scouted out the Conway Farms layout earlier this week, Woods likes the look of a relatively short course where birdies should be plentiful.
"We know we've got some easier holes out there, and if you drive the ball well here, you're going to have a lot of eight-irons on down, and those are some scoring clubs," Woods said.
"There's a lot of funneling where you can get to some of these pins. You don't have to fire right at the flag, you can funnel it in there. You can get the ball pretty stiff. The scores are going to be low."
Woods, who has triumphed a season-high five times on the 2013 PGA Tour, has been grouped with Stenson and Masters champion Adam Scott for the first two rounds at Conway Farms.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)