One year later, the scene hadn't changed.

Jordan Spieth paused on the 17th green and looked across the water to the adjacent fairway at Albany Golf Club as Tiger Woods hit his shot to the ninth green, just like he did last year at the Hero World Challenge.

Curiosity is just as high over another return from injury for Woods and how he will fare after a long layoff.

What's different about the expectations for this comeback — his fifth since he first had back surgery in the spring of 2014 — is they are more about how long Woods will last than what kind of scores he posts.

"He seems more confident this year the way he's walking and talking," Spieth said Wednesday. "He seemed more excited at the Presidents Cup before he was even swinging, more anxious. And it seemed to really bother him that he was following doctor's orders, like he really wanted to get going. So once he was given the go, I think it was exciting for him.

"So we're all very interested, as we should be, in how it goes for him this week — and obviously, hoping that's the start."

The start of his latest comeback is Thursday against an 18-man field that features eight of the top nine players in the world. It's the first time every shot counts for Woods since a 77 in the Dubai Desert Classic on Feb. 3.

That was his seventh round in his return. He withdrew the next day, citing back spasms, and had a fourth back surgery in April to fuse two disks in his lower back. Woods reports some stiffness and not as much range in motion. But he says he has no pain.

Justin Thomas, the PGA Tour player of the year who will be paired with Woods on Thursday, said fans will be "shocked at how good his game looks." Rickie Fowler made a casual reference to how far Woods was driving it past him. Brad Faxon, who played with Woods and Dustin Johnson last Friday, said Woods looked at ease and held nothing back in his swing, especially with the driver.

Woods had to keep score in his pro-am round Wednesday, and that included a 2 on the 350-yard seventh hole when he drove the green.

"It's been a very long time, and I'm really looking forward to getting out there and playing with Justin and having a good time," Woods said.

Soccer

Nashville an expansion finalist

Nashville, Tenn., is among four finalists for a pair of Major League Soccer expansion teams after government financing for a new stadium was approved this month. Sacramento, Calif., is considered a front-runner along with Nashville for the teams, which the league intends to award next month. Each winner will pay a $150 million expansion fee. Cincinnati and Detroit also remain in contention, but without firm plans for new stadiums, they are viewed as long shots.

AROUND THE HORN

Media: ESPN is eliminating 150 production and technical employees as the sports broadcasting giant continues to shift its focus to a more digital future. The company says the layoffs, don't include on-air talent and will have a minimal impact on the network's signature SportsCenter.

Cycling: Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome will ride the Giro d'Italia next year in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row.

ASSOCIATED PRESS