World No. 1 Brooks Koepka returns to the course on Thursday and he admits his injured left knee isn't yet 100 percent.
But when he steps into the tee box for his first shot of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the United Arab Emirates, he will at least know he has made plenty of progress.
Koepka was bothered by the knee for most of last season and he underwent stem cell treatments for a partially torn patellar tendon in August. He returned in October but suffered a major setback in his second event when he slipped on wet concrete in South Korea.
"Everything felt good, and then in Korea, I re-tore it and the kneecap had moved into the fat pad," Koepka told reporters, referencing knee tissue underneath the kneecap. "That's excruciating. It's a lot of pain. It's not fun."
Koepka, 29, only began hitting golf balls again just prior to Christmas. He knows the knee needs more time to recover but he feels he has reached the point where he can give it a shot.
"I have been trying to make sure everything feels right, and it does not feel like my right knee, I'll be honest with you, and it probably won't for a while," Koepka said. "But it does feel stable, which leaving Korea and all the way up to about a month and a half ago it felt like it could go either way. It could go left, out, back ... it could go any way.
"Even when I got the green light (to practice), I just didn't know whether it was going to feel right, whether you're going to be the same, how it is going to feel. I started hitting balls just before Christmas. Everything felt good. Speed was the same. We were hitting on TrackMan (simulator) and my numbers were exactly what they were the day I left, which is always nice.
"From that moment on, after a couple of days of hitting balls and not feeling pain, it was, 'OK, I could get back here and do this and finally play.' "
The time away has done one thing -- it has made Koepka eager to return to the golf grind.
"When you have something taken away from you, I think it makes you appreciate it more," Koepka said. "I mean, I missed competition. I missed showing up to an event, preparing for something, because I haven't had anything to prepare for. Having three months off, it's not fun."
Koepka is a four-time major winner. He has won the PGA Championship in each of the past two seasons and also has two U.S. Open titles (2017, 2018).
--Field Level Media