Golf Talk Live - Annika Sorenstam Transcript Segment 1

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 18, 1999, 5:00 pm
GOLF TALK LIVE - JANUARY 18, 1999
ANNIKA SORENSTAM

PETER KESSLER

SINCE THE SUMMER OF 1995 WHEN SHE WON THE US WOMEN'S OPEN FOR THE FIRST TIME. THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD MALE OR FEMALE HAS BEEN ANNIKA SORENSTAM; MEET HER NOW ON GOLF TALK LIVE.

PETER KESSLER
IN IT'S 50 YEAR HISTORY, THE LADIES PROFESSIONAL GOLF ASSOCIATION HAS BEEN BLESSED WITH GREAT PLAYERS AND WILDLY POPULAR PERSONALITIES.

AT IT'S INCEPTION THE BEST PLAYER WAS PATTY BERG WHO VIVIDLY REMEMBERS BEING INFLUENCED BY BOBBY JONES PASSING HER HOUSE IN MINNEAPOLIS IN 1930 EACH DAY ON HIS WAY TO THE US OPEN AT
INTERLACHEN IN THE YEAR HE WON THE OPEN AND AMATEUR TITLES OF THE UNITED STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN.

THE MOST POPULAR PLAYER WHEN THE LPGA BEGAN WAS BABE ZAHARIAS THE GREATEST FEMALE ATHLETE IN HISTORY.

WHEN NANCY LOPEZ CAME ALONG WITH A BREATH TAKING COMBINATION OF GAME AND PERSONALITY SHE WOULD INFLUENCE GENERATIONS OF ASPIRING PLAYERS TO BE AWARE OF THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO ENTERTAIN, AND PLAY WORLD CLASS GOLF.

GOLF IS AN INTERNATIONAL GAME AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN LPGA HISTORY, IT'S DOMINANT PLAYER ISN'T AN AMERICAN. WHEN ANNIKA SORENSTAM WAS 12 YEARS OLD, TENNIS WAS HER GAME. AND EVEN WHEN HER FELLOW SWEDE LISELOTTE NEUMANN WON THE US WOMEN'S OPEN.

ANNIKA ONLY DAY DREAMED THE POSSIBILITIES AND FOR ANNIKA DAY DREAMS ARE THE SEEDS OF REALITY. WHICH DEMAND A BLUE PRINT AND FOCUS, AND ANNIKA CAN PLAN, PREPARE , AND EXECUTE LIKE GENERAL PATTON'S IN HIS CLEAREST AND FINEST HOUR.

HER AMATEUR CAREER WAS BRILLIANT AND SCREAMED OF GREATNESS TO COME. SHE WAS A SWEDISH NATIONAL TEAM MEMBER FOR 6 YEARS. SHE WON 7 TIMES FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA.

SHE WAS THE 91 COLLEGE PLAYER OF THE YEAR. THE NCAA CHAMPION IN 1991. AND NCAA ALL AMERICAN IN 91, AND 92 A YEAR IN WHICH SHE WON THE WORLD AMATEUR TITLE, WAS PACK 10 CHAMPION. RUNNER-UP AT THE US WOMEN'S AMATEUR. RUNNER UP AT HE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP. AND SECOND LOW AMATEUR AT THE US WOMEN'S OPEN. AND THEN SHE GOT REALLY SERIOUS. ANNIKA WAS THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE IN 93.

AND THE ROLEX ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IN AMERICA IN 94. IN 95, SHE WAS THE LPGA'S ROLEX PLAYER OF THE YEAR. WON FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE LPGA TOUR AT THE US WOMEN'S OPEN. WAS THE LEADING MONEY WINNER. AND THE VARE TROPHY WINNER FOR LOWEST SCORING AVERAGE. AND SHE WOULD WIN AGAIN THE FOLLOWING SEASON THE SUMMER IN WHICH SHE BRILLIANTLY DEFENDED HER OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP.

IN 97, 6 MORE LPGA TOUR WINS A NEW SINGL SEASON'S EARNING RECORD. ROLEX PLAYER OF THE YEAR HONORS AND MARRIAGE TO DAVID ESCH. IN 98, 4 LPGA WIN'S, LEADING MONEY WINNER, AND ROLEX PLAYER OF THE YEAR FOR THE 3RD TIME IN 4 SEASON'S AND YET SHE SAVED THE UNDENIABLE AND EXQUISITE EVIDENCE OF HER GREATNESS AND CONSISTENCY FOR LAST.

THE FIRST PLAYER IN LPGA HISTORY TO RECORD A SINGLE SEASON'S STROKE AVERAGE IN THE 60'S, SHE'S THE FINEST PLAYER IN THE GAME AND HER FIREWORKS HAVE ONLY JUST BEGUN TO EXPLODE.

PETER KESSLER
WELCOME TO GOLF TALK LIVE I'M PETER KESSLER IT'S A GREAT PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO, THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD ANNIKA SORENSTAM. WHAT A GREAT PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU HERE AGAIN.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

PETER KESSLER

YOU KNOW IT WAS IN APRIL OF 95, WHEN YOU WERE HERE LAST. YOU HADN'T YET WON ON THE LPGA TOUR. IT'S NOT EVEN 4 YEARS LATER YOUR THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD. AND I'M WONDERING HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT A WAY TO BUILD YOUR LIFE SO THAT YOU CARVE OUT TIME TO ENJOY WHAT YOU'VE DONE, AND TO HAVE PERSPECTIVE ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

WELL PETER I THINK I'M TRYING EVERY DAY YOU KNOW , IT'S A LIKE YOU SAID IT'S HAPPEN SO FAST EVERYTHING AND SOMETIMES IT'S FEELS LIKE WHAT I HAVE ACHIEVED IS IT'S JUST A DREAM. SO YOU KNOW EVERYDAY I JUST TAKE IT AS IT COMES AND TRY AND ENJOY IT AS MUCH

AS I CAN. YOU KNOW BUT THE BEST THING IS I LOVE TO PLAY GOLF AND I'M JUST HAPPY TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT.

PETER KESSLER

YOU KNOW, YOUR THE ONLY PERSON I'M GOING TO BE ABLE TO ASK THIS QUESTION OF. UNDER THE EXISTING HALL OF FAME REQUIREMENTS YOU HAVE ANOTHER 3 OR 4 YEAR PLAN IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD AND THEREFORE A MEDIUM TERM GOAL WHICH YOU KNOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE, AND YOU WOULD DO IT FASTER THAN ANYBODY EVER, IF YOU DO.

NOW THEY'VE SOME UP WITH A PROPOSAL THAT MAKES IT SIGNIFICANTLY EASIER FOR YOU TO GET IN THE HALL OF FAME, SO THAT BY THE END OF MARCH OF THIS YEAR, IT'S VERY PROBABLE THAT YOU WOULD HAVE COMPLETED ALL OF THE PLAYING REQUIREMENTS, OTHER THAN THE 10 YEARS THAT IS IN THAT PROPOSAL ABOUT BEING AN ACTIVE PLAYER. ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED THAT IT WOULD BE TOO EASY UNDER THE PROPOSAL, AND YOU NEED TO RESET GOALS.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

WELL I WOULDN'T SAY IT'S TOO EASY, AND IT'S STILL ONLY A PROPOSAL. SO WE'LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS. OBVIOUSLY HALL OF FAME IS SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN WAY OVER HERE, SOMETHING THAT I'VE ALWAYS FELT HAS BEEN UNREASONABLE FOR ME TO ACHIEVE.

AND NOW WHEN I HEARD ABOUT THE PROPOSAL OF COURSE IT MADE ME SMILE BECAUSE NOW I KNOW I HAVE A CHANCE AND YOU KNOW I DON'T WANT TO SAY ANYTHING, WE'LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS BUT IT'S DEFINITELY A CHANGE BUT I KNOW INSIDE THAT IF COULD DO IT THE

ORIGINAL WAY THAT WOULD MAKE ME HAPPY.

PETER KESSLER

YOU KNOW WHEN YOU FIRST START TO WIN, I'M GUESSING THAT THE EXPECTATIONS THAT YOU HAVE, ARE INTERNALLY GENERATED IT'S YOU WHOSE LOOKING FOR VICTORIES AS OPPOSED TO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO EXPECT IT BUT WHEN YOU START TO PILE THEM UP THE EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS ARE HEIGHTENED WHAT DOES THAT DO TO YOU INSIDE OR ARE YOU ABLE TO IGNORE THAT AND PLAY YOUR GAME AND LIVE UP TO WHAT ANNIKA HAS IN MIND FOR ANNIKA.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

WELL I THINK THE BOTTOM LINE I DO PLAY GOLF FOR MYSELF, AND I SET UP GOALS FOR MYSELF BUT I THINK THE LAST FEW YEARS I'VE GOTTEN A LITTLE SPOILED WITH VICTORY'S AND SO FORTH THAT I'VE

KIND OF ERASED THE BAR FOR MYSELF AND I ALSO THINK THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE EXPECTING TO DO WELL AND IT'S NOT EASY, AND WHEN I DON'T HAVE A GOOD FINISH, I FEEL LIKE I LET SOMEBODY DOWN, AND EVEN MYSELF DOWN BUT

YOU KNOW EVERYBODY WHO PLAYS GOLF KNOWS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT AND IT'S A DIFFICULT SPORT SO YOU KNOW I GOT TO REMIND MYSELF THAT I'M JUST PLAYING FOR MYSELF AND YOU KNOW LIKE I SAID EARLIER, I HAVE ACHIEVED MUCH MORE

THAN I EVER THOUGHT I COULD. SO THERE'S NO REASON TO PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON MYSELF ANY MORE.

PETER KESSLER

DO YOU FIND IT ODD WHEN THE NEWS THAT YOU DIDN'T WIN IS BIGGER THAN THE NEWS OF WHO WON, WINNING. I MEAN FOR EXAMPLE BORG LOSES WIMBELDON. PALMER LOSES US OPEN PLAYOFF. SORENSTAM DOESN'T, WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO THAT KIND OF CRAZINESS.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

WELL I THINK ANY NEWS IS GOOD NEWS, YOU KNOW WHETHER I'M WINNING OR NOT I MEAN IT'S NICE TO GET THEIR ATTENTION AND YOU KNOW I THINK IT'S GOOD FOR MY CAREER SO. BUT WHEN I READ THAT IT'S JUST SAY HEY, YOU KNOW I'LL BE BACK NEXT WEEK AGAIN AND I WILL CHANGE THOSE HEADLINES.

PETER KESSLER

ONE OF THE GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE LPGA, WAS LAST YEAR YOUR BEING THE FIRST WOMEN TO HAVE A SINGLE SEASON SCORING AVERAGE OF LESS THAN 70 AND THAT'S THE PROMISED LAND. AFTER HAVING WON PLAYER OF THE YEAR 3 OF THE LAST 4 YEARS, AND THE VARE TROPHIES AND

ALL OF THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH. ARE YOU ABLE TO SET GOALS FOR YOU NOW THAT DON'T EVEN SEEM ATTAINABLE BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM SO LOFTY.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

WELL I GUESS IT'S A NICE PROBLEM ISN'T IT?

PETER KESSLER

YEAH, IT'S A HAPPY PROBLEM I CALL IT.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

WELL, YOU KNOW TO BE HONEST THIS YEAR I HAVEN'T REALLY SET UP GOAL YET. I'M JUST GOING TO TRY AND TAKE IT AS IT COMES. YOU KNOW AFTER WINNING THE OPEN IN 95 YOU KNOW I THOUGHT I'VE WON IT ALL. YOU KNOW I WON THE OPEN

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO WIN AND I THOUGHT THAT WAS THE END OF MY CAREER. BUT I REALIZED YOU KNOW THE MORE YOU PLAY THAT THERE ARE MORE TOURNAMENTS TO WIN AND THERE ARE MORE AWARDS TO WIN SO, YOU KNOW JUST THINKING OF THIS YEAR, I JUST

WANT TO TRY AND ENJOY MYSELF AND TAKE IT AS IT COMES YOU KNOW THE SCORING AVERAGE LAST YEAR, WAS AN INCREDIBLE, A DREAM OF MINE AND TO ACHIEVE THAT WAS THE BIGGEST THING I'VE EVER DONE I THINK AND WHO KNOWS

WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN THIS YEAR BUT YOU KNOW THE MAJORS ARE THE ONES THAT MEAN A LOT TO ME THIS YEAR, THAT'S WHAT I'M GOING FOCUS ON. BUT YOU KNOW, OTHER AWARDS OR OTHER SCORING AVERAGE I'LL TAKE THEM.

PETER KESSLER

WHEN YOU LOOK AT LAST YEAR, THE ONLY DISAPPOINTMENT, I SUPPOSE THAT YOU CAN THINK OF ON THE GOLF COURSE IS THAT YOU DIDN'T WIN A MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP AND AS YOU SET GOALS ARE YOU GOING TO AS YOU JUST

SUGGESTED HAVE SORT OF A LONGER TERM PLAN ABOUT, A NUMBER OF MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS. WE LOOK AT JACK NICKLAUS WINNING 20 ON THE MEN'S

TOUR. PATTY BERG DEPENDING ON HOW YOU DECIDE WHICH OF THE MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS DURING THE TIME IN WHICH SHE PLAYED PROBABLY HAS 15, THAT SEEMS LIKE AN ANNIKA SORENSTAM
KIND OF GOAL WHEN YOU'VE GOT 2.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

OH WOW THOSE ARE HIGH NUMBERS, I DON'T KNOW I'M JUST I MEAN I'VE WON THE OPEN TWICE AND I'M HAPPY ABOUT THAT. YOU KNOW, NOW IT'S THE YEARS WHERE I WANT TO WIN THE MAJORS BUT
I JUST WANT TO START WITH THE FIRST

ONE THAT COMES, I GUESS THAT'S DINAH SHORE FOR US, THAT'S THE ONE THAT MEANS THE MOST RIGHT NOW AND I'M GOING TO TRY AND PREPARE AS GOOD AS I CAN, MAYBE GO OUT THERE A LITTLE EARLIER AND PLAY THE COURSE, JUST WORK ON SPECIAL SHOTS. I MEAN IF I CAN WIN A MAJOR THIS YEAR THAT WOULD BE THAT WOULD BE GREAT, SO LET'S START WITH THE DINAH SHORE.

PETER KESSLER

IS THAT WHY YOU GAVE UP TENNIS BECAUSE YOU FINALLY FIGURED OUT THAT YOU COULDN'T GO PREPARE FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT INVOLVING ANOTHER PERSON IN THE PREPARATION.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

I THINK SO, YEAH I MEAN TENNIS IS A GREAT SPORT. WHEN I PLAY TENNIS THEY FIGURE OUT MY WEAKNESS AND THEY WOULD, WHICH WAS MY BACKHAND IN THIS CASE AND THEY WOULD HIT MY BACKHAND ALL THE TIME AND I WOULD

GET UPSET BECAUSE I HAD A STRONG FOREHAND BUT IN GOLF I LIKE TO DRAW THE BALL, AND I CAN DRAW IT FOR 18 HOLES AND I CAN STILL SHOOT A LOW SCORE SO I GUESS YOUR RIGHT.

PETER KESSLER

AND I GUESS THAT'S ONE OF THE REASON'S YOU LIKE SKIING RIGHT, BECAUSE AS YOU LEAVE DAVID ALONE IN A CLOUD OF DUST YOU CAN BE ZOOMING DOWN THE HILL ALL BY YOURSELF.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

THAT'S RIGHT.

PETER KESSLER

ALONG WITH YOUR OWN THOUGHTS.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

THAT'S RIGHT!

PETER KESSLER

WITH GOGGLES AND A HAT PULLED OVER YOUR FACE AND NOBODY KNOWS WHO YOU ARE.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM

I LIKE THAT.

PETER KESSLER

TAKE A LITTLE BREAK, WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK WITH ANNIKA SORENSTAM, DON'T GO AWAY.

(BREAK)

NEXT SEGMENT
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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.

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Florida golfers encounter python-wrapped alligator

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

Alligator sightings are pretty common on Southern golf courses - see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Also, here. (RIP, Timmy the Turtle.)

But here's one that deserves distinction.

Those images come from the Golf Club at Fiddler's Creek, down in Naples - in case you're booking a vacation to Southwest Florida or just looking for a Hot Deal this week. Hit 'em straight, folks.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.