Tiger in denial over form?

2011-04-06 19:21
Tiger Woods (File)
Augusta - Tiger Woods was gracious, smiling, on a few occasions monosyllabic and prickly, but above all positive as he discussed his bid for a fifth Masters title at Augusta National this week.

The former world No 1 has not triumphed anywhere in the world since the 2009 Australian Masters yet, despite his struggles on and off the course during that time, he pronounced himself ready to claim a 15th major title on Sunday.

"My whole idea is to try to win the golf tournament and that's what I'm trying to do," Woods told a packed news conference at Augusta National on Tuesday.

"My whole idea is to prepare. I prepare all year to peak four times a year (at majors) and that has not changed."

Asked if he felt ready to win this week despite a barren run lasting almost 17 months, the 35-year-old American replied with a nod: "Mm-hmm."

When questioned why, he again responded: "Mm-hmm."

The same reporter then asked which part of his game was ready. Woods, flashing a broad smile, remained silent.

Comfortably the best player of his generation and arguably of all time, Woods enjoys a comfort factor at Augusta National second to none.

In only his third appearance at the spiritual home of American golf, he won the 1997 Masters by a record 12-stroke margin. Four years later, he landed his second green jacket to hold all four majors at the same time.

Further wins followed in 2002 and 2005 but, since his stunning fall from grace at the end of 2009, Woods has lost the aura of dominance he once enjoyed.

His world ranking has slipped to seventh, his lowest position since 1997, and his customary status as the pre-tournament favourite has been taken by compatriot and defending champion Phil Mickelson.

"Doesn't matter," said Woods, who was clad entirely in black. "Favourites don't win golf tournaments. You still have to play the golf tournament, right? We all have an opportunity.

"Everyone has the same opportunity as I do and always has been. So you've just got to go out there and play and see where it adds up."

The biggest question mark for Woods this week hinges on how his game will hold up under major pressure after a decision to embark on the fourth swing change of his professional career.

It will be his first major since joining forces with Canadian coach Sean Foley after the PGA Championship in August, the same month that Woods's divorce from his Swedish wife, Elin Nordegren, was finalised.

"Taking a step back, or sometimes even two steps back, there's nothing wrong with that if I'm going to make three, four, five steps forwards and become better in the end," he said of his latest swing change.

"I'll sacrifice that for a bit knowing that I'll become better. If you look at my track record, that's exactly what's happened. I think it's been good. I got to 14 (major titles)."

Asked whether the golfing world had seen the best of Tiger Woods, he replied: "No. I believe in myself.

"There's nothing wrong with believing in myself. God, I hope you guys feel the same way about yourselves. That's the whole idea - that you can always become better."

A year ago, Woods finished in a highly creditable tie for fourth at Augusta National after competing for the first time in nearly five months following the very public disintegration of his private life.

In his 15 PGA Tour starts since then, he has been unable to finish any higher, which he admits has taken him by surprise.

"Yeah, certainly, there's no doubt," Woods added. "But I didn't think I would have to make a complete swing change, lose coaches, and move on to another one.

"That's taken a little while to build in new motor patterns. It takes a while for it to be laid down and it takes time. I'm finally starting to shape the ball both ways and being able to fix it if I don't."

This week at Augusta National, where the first round starts on Thursday, will prove how much Woods is able to fix his retooled swing - should he need to do so - during competition.

Read more on:    masters  |  tiger woods

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