Golf

Tiger sees year of challenges

2011-01-01 16:00
Tiger Woods (File)

Orlando - Tiger Woods sent a message to his fans after celebrating his 35th birthday on Thursday, looking ahead to a year of new challenges and leaving behind a winless year of personal turmoil.

"Another successful trip completed around the sun! Thanks for all the well wishes," Woods posted on his Twitter account.

World number two Woods, who surrendered his top ranking to England's Lee Westwood two months ago, was named on Friday by the PGA Tour website atop a list of the top 100 players to watch in 2011.

It's a position Woods has occupied for much of his career even before turning professional in 1996 at age 20, but one that carries special meaning given the meltdown of his life in the wake of a sex scandal that began 13 months ago.

Woods and wife Elin Nordegren were divorced in August, nine months after revelations began about Woods's affairs with multiple mistresses. More than a dozen women claimed sexual relationships with the world's top golfer.

Several sponsors dropped Woods, who had become the first sportsman to reach one billion dollars in career endorsement and prize money. He became the punch line to jokes and took a five-month break from golf to cope with the situation.

Woods returned at the Masters in April and shared fourth, as he would at the US Open in June, but the disgraced superstar went winless for the year even as he began working on changes in his swing with new coach Sean Foley.

Regaining the clutch putting skills that once helped create an aura of golf invincibility also figures to be a major goal.

Woods, a 14-time major champion, continues to chase the all-time record of 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus.

That alone will make him the focus of a new golf season that begins next week but will not see Woods play for at least a month. He has confirmed plans to play in February's Dubai Desert Classic.

Golf fans and the extra audiences Woods attracted for his greatest challenges could rediscover why they were drawn to Woods in the first place as he tries to put aside his past and reclaim the world number one ranking.

Woods had owned the top spot for 281 weeks in a row before being toppled one week shy of 12 years atop the rankings for his career.

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