It’s been 11 years since Tiger Woods won a major championship and 14 since he won The Masters. But Woods believes that he can win again at Augusta National.
“I feel like I can win,” Woods told a packed media centre on Tuesday. “I've proven that I can do it and I put myself there with a chance to win the last two major championships of the year last year. I was right there and just needed to have a couple more things to go my way and not throw away a couple shots here and there, which I was able to do at East Lake.
“I just feel like that I've improved a lot over the past 12, 14 months, but I've more than anything just proven to myself that I can play at this level again. I've worked my way back into one of the players that can win events.”
A laid back and jovial Woods also acknowledged his own surprise at the length of time between major championship drinks as he prepared to head out to the course he knows so well on Tuesday afternoon to get more of a feel for how the rain soaked Augusta National will play this week.
“I would say that I wouldn't have foreseen that, for sure,” he said of not winning a major since the 2008 US Open. “After I won my 14th, I felt like I still had plenty more major championships that I could win, but unfortunately I just didn't do it. I put myself there with chances on the back nine on various Sundays and just haven't done it.
“You know, hopefully this year, I put myself there again, and hopefully I'll get it done.”
RIGHT: Woods has been all smiles this week as he prepares to attempt to break his major championship drought. PHOTO: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Many believe that if Tiger is to add to his major haul, and perhaps even make a late run at Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 titles, his most likely of the big four tournaments is The Masters, where he is a four time champion and course knowledge has allowed older players like Fred Couples and Jack Nicklaus to compete later in their careers.
Woods acknowledging that his own strong suit at the event in the second half of his career has become his unrivalled course knowledge among this week’s serious chances as opposed to his early domination of Augusta through his prodigious length. Although Tiger it seems, like any golfer, wouldn’t mind hitting the ball a little longer.
“Well, I would like to hit it 40, 50 yards past the longest guy out here and I'll figure it out from there,” Woods joked when asked which of the two advantages he prefers.
As his recovery has continued, Woods has in fact regained most of his clubhead speed. And distance won’t be a problem for the 43-year-old, even with little to no run expected on the fairways early in the week. Many well credentialed observers placing the onus on his sometimes balky putting if Woods is to win a fifth green jacket.
Despite being back among the top-15 players on the world rankings however, Woods explained that his multiple back surgeries make committing time to refining his putting stroke difficult. A problem not faced by many others looking to win major championships.
“I feel I can still putt. The hardest part is I just can't practice like I used to. My back gets sore. I just can't log in the time that I used to and that goes with every part of my game,” Woods said of managing his back. “I can't work on every single part of my game every day, I have to pick different parts of my game to work on and that's the challenge I now face going forward and just have to figure it out and try to create a good balance there to find a prep of what I need to work on, and it was – it was a little bit easier when I could work on everything but that's no longer the case.”
Whereas Woods’ nursing of his back from day-to-day is a unique prospect for him compared to his main rivals, he does possess a benefit that arguably no one else in the field can claim. The 14-time major champion content that he no longer needs to win any tournaments to prove anything in his career. Instead hoping to do so for his own satisfaction.
“I don't really need to win again,” Tiger said with a wry smile on his face. “I really want to.”