Kuala Lumpur: Claiming three PGA Tour victories whilst battling to reconfigure your swing would amount to a great year for most golfers but for Tiger Woods, his extended major drought means 2012 can only be classed as a ‘good’ season.
In a career defined by rewriting records, the 14-times major winner collected the third of those titles at the AT&T National tournament at Congressional in July to overtake Jack Nicklaus in second place on the PGA Tour winners list with 74.
However, for the 36-year-old American regarded as one, if not the greatest golfer of all time, anything short of major wins to haul him closer to the prized record of Nicklaus’ 18 results is a tinge of disappointment for the perfectionist.
“I’ve always said winning one major championship turns a good year into a great year,” Woods told reporters in Malaysia on the eve of the co-sanctioned CIMB Classic.
“I’ve had years where I’ve won five times on Tour. Yeah, it’s a really good year, no doubt, but winning a major championship just makes it a great year.
“The majors are such a different animal and different breed and we place so much emphasis on the them.”
His last major victory was a remarkable 2008 US Open triumph at Torrey Pines, where Woods hobbled around on a failing knee to defeat compatriot Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole Monday playoff.
A year out followed as he underwent rehabilitation following knee construction surgery before his return to tournament golf was derailed by the public humiliation of sordid details of his private life and divorce from his wife.
Then came the swing changes with current coach Sean Foley before he ended his PGA Tour drought with a five-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer invitational in March and quickly followed that up with a win at the Memorial Tournament.
Successes Woods, one of the most iconic sportsmen in the world, credits to a career-best year of driving.
“I’m excited about turning some of my weaknesses into strengths,” said Woods, who also has Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour wins in his sights along with Nicklaus’ majors tally.
“I hadn’t driven very well in a very long time but this year is probably the best I had driven in my entire career. Length and accuracy, so I’ve improved in that regard.”
While the American was content with his accuracy off the tee, statistics show he has room for improvement as he sits 53rd on the PGA Tour’s driving list and despite his progress in that area, when it goes wrong, the results are alarming.
His opening tee shot at the Ryder Cup last month drew gasps of disbelief as his attempted left-to-right fade ended up buffeting a hospitality marquee way left of the fairway on a difficult morning.
Woods and his US team recovered to dominate the first two days before going on to lose the cup to an inspired European fightback on a dramatic final afternoon.
Difficult moments, like that, have left the American’s confidence slightly shaky at times, but now in his 17th year on Tour, the world number two knows how to rectify errors.
“There are times as I’ve gone through periods where I didn’t hit it very good, didn’t chip very good, didn’t putt very good,” Woods said. “I just got to go back and work harder.”
The scorching sunshine on Wednesday certainly made for hard work on the course as Woods competed in the tournament’s pro-am with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
After competing in the 48-man PGA, Asian and Malaysian Tour event, Woods will head to China to take on World No. 1 Rory McIlroy for a head-to-head showdown dubbed ‘Duel at Jinsha Lake’ before ending his year by hosting the Chevron World Challenge.
As in previous seasons, Woods has ignored many lucrative opportunities to play in events across Asia in the final months of the year because of his commitment to his two children.
“Golf has always been a high priority in my life but family has been number one, so that hasn’t changed.
“I certainly want to break Jack’s record and catch Snead’s record but being the best father I can possibly be to my two great kids, that is certainly number one in my life.”