(Reuters) - Tiger Woods is counting down the minutes to his competitive comeback at this week's Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas and says after a year on the sidelines he is even enjoying the pre-tournament nerves.

The 40-year-old has been sidelined for 15 months due to back-related issues. He planned to return at last month's PGA Tour's Safeway Open in California but withdrew three days before the opening round, saying his game was not sharp enough.

The 14-times major champion told British media that had been the right decision and he was now in better shape to return at the Dec. 1-4 tournament he hosts.

"I'm not dead, I'm ready to go," said Woods. "I'm nervous for every tournament I play in whether it's after a lay-off or six in a row or a major. I care. If I care, I'm nervous. And it's good to be that way.

"To have that nervous energy and channel it into aggression, into focus, concentration, that's good stuff. If I wasn't nervous, that would mean I didn't care. I don't want to be out there flat. I want to be out here so bad; and now I am."

Woods has not played on the PGA Tour since August 2015, having undergone surgeries in September and again in October of that year due to ongoing back problems.

The greatest player of his generation and arguably of all time, he has not won a tournament anywhere since 2013 and his title drought in the major championships dates back to 2008.

Woods, who has fallen to 898th in the world, said it had been a wise decision not to rush his return.

"The competitor inside me wanted to go so badly and was itching to go. I thought if I only have a few shots, it's good enough to get it around," he added.

"But what's the point in rushing back when I've waited over a year to begin with? I've waited this long, it's not going to hurt to wait just this much longer."

(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)