Tiger Woods has laughed off Rory McIlroy's jibe that the 14-time major winner is playing "the last few holes" of his illustrious career, but admits injury will dictate how long he will remain in the sport.
Woods has suffered an injury-plagued campaign, with back surgery forcing him to miss The Masters and the US Open, while a recurrence of the problem contributed to the 38-year-old missing the cut at the US PGA Championship.
After ruling himself out of contention to be selected as part of Tom Watson's United States Ryder Cup team, Woods is targeting a return to action for December's Hero World Challenge, a tournament supported by his own foundation.
Asked about the comments made by McIlroy - which included a dig at Woods' American rival Phil Mickelson - he said: "I thought it was funny." McIlroy has won two majors in 2014 at The Open Championship and the US PGA Championship.
"I mean, Phil has less holes to play than I do, though. What is he, five years older than me or four? Five. Yeah, so yeah, it's a reality, you know? We're all older.
"I'm nearing my 20th season on tour here coming up pretty soon. I've been out here for a while, and Phil has been out here for a while. Phil has made every single Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team since, I think, what, '95. Pretty remarkable. But yeah, it's just part of the aging process.
"[The length of my career is] all dependent on how I feel and how I'm playing when I play in the Hero World Challenge here," said Woods.
"That's something I'm curious about. I'm curious, just like I'm sure most of the media guys are here, how I'm going to be feeling, how I'm going to be playing, and if I don't have any setbacks or any pain, then I foresee a very full schedule next year."
After being forced to withdraw from the WGC Bridgestone Invitational following back surgery in April, Woods is making a cautious return to training but admits he is yet to pick up a golf club since injury in early August.
"Well, golf‑wise, [I've done] nothing," he said. "I haven't swung a golf club yet. I've just been shadow swinging without a club, but I've been busting my butt in the gym pretty hard.
"I've got my strength back, which is nice. Now the next goal is to get my explosiveness and my fast twitch going, and that's the next phase of my training."
"We have our goals and benchmarks, but it's also day‑to‑day. Some days I'm making bigger gains than others."