DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Tiger Woods insists his game is coming together and it’s just a matter of time before he wins his first tournament in more than a year.
Appearing relaxed and upbeat at the Dubai Desert Classic, the third-ranked Woods said Wednesday his game “was progressing” and he took away positives regarding his overhauled swing from finishing in a tie for 44th in his season-opener at San Diego two weeks ago.
“I still feel I can win golf tournaments,” said Woods, who has won 14 majors among 82 titles around the world. “I’m not that old. I figure I’ve got some years ahead of me.
“I don’t always win. I’ve certainly lost a lot more tournaments than I’ve won. But it’s the goal every week you tee up and that doesn’t change,” he said.
Woods’ result at Torrey Pines was his worst to start a season since he turned professional. Last year, his marriage ended following a string of extramarital affairs and he lost the No. 1 ranking to Lee Westwood in October.
Woods said he wasn’t going to return to the top soon because of the “complete overhaul” he’s made to the movement and philosophy of his swing with the help of his coach, Sean Foley.
“Obviously I still have to pay attention to the short game and my techniques there, all the different shots, as well as the putting stroke,” Woods said. “It’s progressing. I’m putting pieces together and working on the same things.
“Sean and I, we are sticking with the game plan and just trying to get better each and every week,” he added. “Good things happened in the last event I played in, and it’s nice to have some things that showed up that I had not had in practice. So we were able to identify that, work on it and I feel a lot more comfortable coming into this week.”
Woods acknowledged his struggles have been “frustrating” but he takes some solace from the fact that he has been through similar slumps before, especially from 1997-99 when he won only one tournament.
“Certainly it was frustrating that I didn’t perform the way I know I could,” he said of Torrey Pines. “But … I’ve been here before. It takes time. I went through, as I said, a two-year period where I didn’t do anything and a year-and-a-half period where I didn’t do anything … You don’t make changes and just start winning a bunch of golf tournaments.”
This week, Woods is grouped with Westwood and No. 2 Martin Kaymer on Thursday and Friday, the first time the world’s top three golfers are playing in a regular European Tour event in 17 years.
“It’s fun,” he said. “The last time I played in a pairing like this was the U.S. Open in 2008, the top three guys and we had a lot of fun. It was fun competing and playing in the group. I think tomorrow will be the same.”
Along with the sight of the top three playing together, there is much at stake this weekend which is not only exciting fans but many of the golfers as well.
Westwood could lose the top spot if Kaymer wins and he finishes lower than second, and if Kaymer finishes second and Westwood is out of the top 10. If Kaymer is tied for second, he could still become No. 1 if Westwood finishes out of the top 36.
Woods could jump ahead of Kaymer if he wins and the German finishes outside the top five.
“It feels different because you’ve got the best three players in the world here this week,” said seventh-ranked Rory McIlory, who is also playing in Dubai. “Plenty of points up for grabs and plenty to play for. Westwood could be No. 1, Kaymer could be No. 1. Not sure if Tiger could quite get to No. 1 with a win. It’s great.”
Woods won in Dubai in 2006 and 2008 but did not play here last year. He played in a pro-am on Wednesday.
“They (the greens) are running very true,” said Woods, who lagged behind on several holes Wednesday to practice his putting and chipping.
“We’ll see what happens as the tournament progresses, see if they dry out or not because they have the potential of being pretty firm,” he said. “You know, today, this morning, it was pretty soft … I suspect if you get any kind of wind or warm weather, it will dry them out and it will be a really good test come this weekend.”