Golf: New Woods, same focus for Tiger

Tiger Woods signing autographs for fans following Wednesday's pro-am round before the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, California. The US golfer says he is ready to "win tournaments" once again.
Tiger Woods signing autographs for fans following Wednesday's pro-am round before the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, California. The US golfer says he is ready to "win tournaments" once again.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Torrey Pines looms as watershed if winning ways are to return, ahead of packed schedule

LOS ANGELES • Tiger Woods insists he can "win tournaments" as he begins a daunting five-week schedule that could make or break his comeback.

Ranked 663rd after playing just one tournament in 17 months, the 14-time Major winner - who has had four operations on his knee and three on his back - is adamant that he can make up for lost time at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

His last comeback at his own Hero World Challenge event last month ended with him finishing 15th out of 17 players but the 41-year-old declared that he is ready to resume his career with renewed vigour. He brings to the task a new set of woods, from TaylorMade, and, it appears, his same old singular focus.

Asked about Torrey Pines' picturesque scenes during his pro-am round before the Farmers Insurance Open, he confessed that he had not noticed.

"I'm looking at where I want the golf ball to go," he said, adding, "Playing tournament golf, I'm so focused on what I'm trying to do."

While his choice to sign a deal with TaylorMade clubs made waves, the true surprise will come if he returns as a new man.

SINGULAR MINDSET

I'm looking at where I want the golf ball to go. Playing tournament golf, I'm so focused on what I'm trying to do.

TIGER WOODS, 14-time Major winner, on not paying attention to the scenic beauty of the Torrey Pines course, where he is eyeing a return to winning form.

A packed schedule of four events has left many scratching their heads. After Torrey Pines, Woods will compete in the Feb 2-5 Dubai Desert Classic and the Feb 16-19 Genesis Open before heading to Florida for the Feb 23-26 Honda Classic.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I have sat out long enough.

"I've played a lot at home, but it's different being out here at our level and playing against these guys; the flow of playing tournament golf (is different). I've been away from it for a very long time.

"I need to have my health at a state where I can prepare and get my game ready to play at an elite level. When I feel that way, I know I can shoot scores and win golf tournaments."

Paul McGinley, Europe's Ryder Cup captain in 2014, is among those who are questioning the American's schedule.

"He has put a lot on his plate and this will reveal a lot about where he really is," he said. "I don't think even Tiger knows."

McGinley, who plays at the Abu Dhabi Invitational this weekend, added: "It's a huge, huge ask for him to come back and win again.

"Circumstances have changed a lot from where he was when he was at his best - not just off the course, but on it too. He can't play that dynamic game that he used to when he overpowered the course and intimidated players.

"He is in his 40s and there will be 50 or 60 guys who will hit the ball further than him. There are big challenges ahead for him."

But Woods maintained he was not bothered about being out-driven. "Those guys will bomb it out there; that's fine," he said, adding: "The name of the game is low score. It's not a long-driving contest."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'New Woods, same focus for Tiger'. Print Edition | Subscribe